Common Precedents: The Presentness of the Past in Victorian Law and Fiction

Paperback | April 1, 2015

byAyelet Ben-Yishai

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Reading major novels by George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and Wilkie Collins, Common Precedents shows that precedential reasoning enjoyed widespread cultural significance in the nineteenth-century as a means of preserving a sense of common history, values, and interests in the face of a newheterogeneous society. Enabling the recognition of the new and its assimilation as part of a continuous past, Ayelet Ben-Yishai argues that the binding force of precedent also functions as the binding element of an always shifting commonality, pulling it together in the face of rupture anddispersion. By appearing to bring the past seamlessly into the present, the form of legal precedent became vital to the preservation of a sense of commonality and continuity crucial to the common law and Victorian legal culture. But the impact of precedent extended beyond legal practices andinstitutions to the culture at large, and especially to its fiction. Ben-Yishai argues that understanding the structure of precedent also explains fictional form: how fictionality works, its epistemology, and the ways in which its commonalities are socially constructed, maintained, andreified.

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Reading major novels by George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, and Wilkie Collins, Common Precedents shows that precedential reasoning enjoyed widespread cultural significance in the nineteenth-century as a means of preserving a sense of common history, values, and interests in the face of a newheterogeneous society. Enabling the recognition ...

Ayelet Ben-Yishai is Assistant Professor of English at The University of Haifa.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:208 pages, 9.09 × 6.1 × 0.71 inPublished:April 1, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019023685X

ISBN - 13:9780190236854

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Common PrecedentsPart I - The Forms Of Legal Precedent1. Stare Decisis, Law Reports, and the Materiality of Legal FormThe History of Legal PrecedentLaw Reports - Form and FunctionAnti-narrativityAnti-Narrativity and the History of Law ReportingPart II - Precedential Forms of Fiction2. Precedential Reasoning: George Eliot's Middlemarch3. Empirical Customs: Heirlooms And Facts In Trollope's Eustace Diamonds4. Past Perfect: Legitimacy and The Woman in White

Editorial Reviews

"Common Precedents is a fascinating study of the form and substance of the formation of social convention. It's lucid, informative, and offers some truly brilliant readings." --Elaine Freedgood, author of The Ideas in Things: Fugitive Meaning in the Victorian Novel