Adultery, Criminality, and the Myth of English Sovereignty
11 Law, Culture and the Humanities __ (2015 Forthcoming)
30 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2014
Date Written: October 13, 2014
This article argues that in Britain over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the understanding of adultery as a tort was complicated by an accompanying discourse of what I will call “quasi-criminality.” Specifically — while formally trivialized — adultery remained linked to a threat to British kingship. The tension between the weight of relevant monarchical history and the absence of contemporary criminal enforcement created a new cultural narrative about adultery which attempted, itself, to serve a penal function. Examining the development of this discourse alongside the relevant law illuminates the complex social process through which public and private wrongs become distinguished — or conflated.
Keywords: tort law, criminal law, punishment, civil recourse theory, adultery, sexuality
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