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Thomas Hardy's Legal Fictions$
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Trish Ferguson

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748673247

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748673247.001.0001

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‘I Was Not in My Senses, and a Man’s Senses Are Himself’

‘I Was Not in My Senses, and a Man’s Senses Are Himself’

The Legal Defence of Insanity

(p.51) Chapter 2 ‘I Was Not in My Senses, and a Man’s Senses Are Himself’
Thomas Hardy's Legal Fictions

Trish Ferguson

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines Thomas Hardy’s legal fiction in the context of debates surrounding the changing definition of legal insanity during the nineteenth century. Focusing on the McNaughten Rules and its insistence that insanity must be understood in terms of cognitive impairment, the chapter argues that Hardy’s fiction raises hypothetical cases that reveal the lack of certainty around insanity cases, particularly in cases of provocation. It also discusses the influence of sensation fiction, which also explored the issues of legal insanity and criminal responsibility through a limited narrative perspective, on Hardy’s fiction as well as his use of third-person narrative to defend his characters mirroring the role of defence counsel. It contends that the use of a limited third-person narrative demonstrates the legal complexity of establishing mens rea as well as the difficulty of the relationship between intention and action.

Keywords:   legal fiction, Thomas Hardy, legal insanity, McNaughten Rules, provocation, sensation fiction, criminal responsibility, third-person narrative, intention, mens rea

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