By Jonathan H. Grossman
In The artwork of Alibi, Jonathan Grossman reconstructs the relation of the unconventional to nineteenth-century legislations courts. through the Romantic period, courthouses and trial scenes usually chanced on their method into the plots of English novels. As Grossman states, "by the Victorian interval, those scenes represented a strong intersection of narrative shape with a complementary and competing constitution for storytelling." He argues that the courts, newly formed as a domain within which to orchestrate voices and reconstruct tales, arose as a cultural presence influencing the form of the English novel.Weaving examinations of novels resembling William Godwin's Caleb Williams, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Charles Dickens's The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, besides a examining of the hot Royal Courts of Justice, Grossman charts the intriguing alterations taking place in the novel, particularly crime fiction, that preceded and ended in the discovery of the detective secret within the 1840s.
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Extra resources for The art of alibi: English law courts and the novel
In a rough sense the decision to allow for defense counsel in state treason trials had slowly extended into ordinary criminal trials, and, in broadening so, the initial public impact of the treason show trials as a form of justice also kept slowly and surely expanding, becoming applicable to ordinary criminal trials and ordinary people. With the boundaries of behavior marked out for all by the ﬁgure of the outlaw, the new mode of producing criminals became a powerful part of imagining identity, albeit perceived from a kaleidoscope of diverse perspectives.
Although Gatrell reminds us that “even in the s and s, with an increased presence of lawyers in the court . . trials remained uncommonly hasty” (), criminal trials were slowing down by the nineteenth century. ”¹⁹ Before the nineteenth century the infamous mandate that juries would be locked up “without meat, drink, ﬁre, or candle” until they reached a verdict could not have been too terrifying, at least in felony trials. In general, eighteenth-century juries did not even retire from the courtroom to render their verdicts.
In the ideology of justice formed around the scaﬀold, the presence of the body was central, but now both the medium (newspapers) and subject (trial) emphasized language and narrative as the locus of discipline. ”⁶¹ Of course FitzGerald could ﬁnd this “court in print” in books as well as newspapers. Some volumes were marketed essentially as extensions of the papers. Gatrell proposes James Harmer’s The Murder of Mr. Steele, published in (two years before FitzGerald was born), as the book that for the ﬁrst time dared “to appeal against a dubious trial and sentence by speaking directly to a general readership about the ‘fairness’ of legal process rather than deferentially to the authorities of state” ().