Family and the Law in Eighteenth-Century Fiction: The Public by John P. Zomchick

By John P. Zomchick

Kin and the legislation in Eighteenth-Century Fiction bargains not easy interpretations of the private and non-private faces of individualism within the eighteenth-century English novel. John P. Zomchick starts off by means of surveying the social, ancient and ideological services of legislations and the kinfolk in England's constructing industry economic system. He is going directly to research intimately their half within the fortunes and misfortunes of the protagonists in Defoe's Roxana, Richardson's Clarissa, Smollett's Roderick Random, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield and Godwin's Caleb Williams. Zomchick finds in those novels an try to produce a 'juridical subject': a illustration of the person pointed out with the rules and goals of the legislations, and stimulated through an inherent want for affection and group fulfilled by means of the family members. Their ambivalence in the direction of that formula shows a nostalgia for much less aggressive social kin, and an emergent liberal critique of the law's operation within the provider of society's elites.

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267. 1 Will & M a r . , sess. ii, c. , Bill of Rights, 1689, in E. Neville Williams, The Eighteenth-Century Constitution, 1688—1815: Documents and Commentary ( C a m b r i d g e : C a m b r i d g e University Press, 1960), p . 26. "85 The discourse of law and the intuitive conviction of rights make the political actor into a juridical subject, endowing that subject with the means to prevail in the struggle between subjugation and freedom. 86 One element within this moment of ideological emergence, I maintain, is the coeval appearance of the juridical subject as an object of representation in novelistic narrative.

26 Family and the law the common law assumed its modern character when "new rules and machinery are introduced . . " 95 In this regard it is also possible to see how the juridical and economic discourses working in concert produce new objective forms of subjectivity. These new forms of subjectivity have a discursive and institutional history. Joyce Appleby has noted, for example, how sixteenth-century legislation produced new forms of character, both individual and collective. '" 9 6 In short, this law both reflects the dislocations effected by economic and political change as well as constitutes a group as an administrative category.

That illusion, nonetheless, is one that drives the plots of many eighteenthcentury novels. 85 86 87 88 Nenner, By Colour of Law, pp. 8 1 , 3-4; W . S. Holdsworth, A History of English Law, 12 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown, a n d Company, 1924), 5:352. See Clark, English Society, 1688-1832, pp. 46, 132. See Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957), ch. 10. 89 Habermas, Structural Transformation, pp. 79-87. Pocock, Ancient Constitution, p.

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