Separate Spheres Revisited: On the Frameworks of Interdisciplinarity and Constructions of the Market
24 Law & Literature 393
37 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2011 Last revised: 17 Nov 2015
Date Written: 2012
Historical analyses of modern law and literature tend to fall into one of two interpretive frameworks. One suggests that law and literature reinforce the same conceptual and ideological developments; the other reads radical separations, associating law with rule, reason, self-interest, and hegemony, and literature with plurality, emotion, empathy, and subversive counternarratives.The two interpretations have roots in cultural studies, and both inform analyses of the relation of law and literature to the rise of nineteenth-century liberalism. I argue that these are not two alternative interpretations, but two partial ones, and that a full account of law and literature as modern cultural discourses often requires both, but modified. An alternative framework emerges from an examination of a basic tenet of nineteenth-century liberalism, the notion of separate spheres, in two well-known cultural discourses of the nineteenth century, classical contract law and realist novels.
Law and novels grounded importantly different interpretations of the separation of spheres, and in consequence of the economic sphere, the market. The differing visions, however, do not fall along the classic oppositions between law and literature, for both emerged from joint liberal anxieties.
The polarized framework of analysis, which reads either common or oppositional stances toward classical liberalism in law and literature, in fact serves a single historical narrative: that of liberalism as an essential entity one could either oppose or support. The cultural negotiation over separate spheres, however, is better understood as a “varieties of liberalism.”
Keywords: law and literature; contract; separate spheres; the market; liberalism
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