This book is about Thomas Hardy, an English novelist and poet whose legal career began in 1894 when he was appointed county magistrate, and his fiction in relation to legislative and literary history. It situates Hardy’s legal fiction within the legal consciousness of the late nineteenth century and its pervasive preoccupation with the law. It argues that Hardy’s work was shaped both by his awareness of individual cases and acrimonious debates over legal reforms, that he was influenced by sensation fiction and its legal plot lines, and that his open-ended narratives provoke his readers to examine legal issues which he leaves unanswered in a modernist form of training in judicial reasoning. These issues range from the limits of counsel to the definition of legal insanity, legal protection of women from abusive relationships and fundamental social inequalities exacerbated by the reform of land law. Finally, the book considers how Hardy’s fiction offers pseudo-legal representation in narratives that mirror the dialogic form of trial procedure.
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