Adultery, Criminality, and the Myth of English Sovereignty

11 Law, Culture and the Humanities __ (2015 Forthcoming)

30 Pages Posted: 14 Oct 2014

See all articles by Erin L. Sheley

Erin L. Sheley

University of Oklahoma - College of Law

Date Written: October 13, 2014

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Sheley, Erin L., Adultery, Criminality, and the Myth of English Sovereignty (October 13, 2014). 11 Law, Culture and the Humanities __ (2015 Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2509311

Erin L. Sheley (Contact Author)

University of Oklahoma - College of Law ( email )

300 Timberdell Road
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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