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Wilkie Collins' Law Books: Law, Literature, and Factual Precedent

IN THE SECRETS OF LAW, Austin Sarat, ed., Stanford University Press, 2007

Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-001

50 Pages Posted: 15 Feb 2007  

Bernadette A. Meyler

Stanford Law School

Abstract

Both historically and today, law reform efforts aimed at increasing transparency often focus on the possibilities of public access to knowledge about the law. One mode of achieving such access may be textual, through the dissemination of law reports, the publication of treatises explaining legal principles, and the production of volumes containing statutory enactments. Those attempting to promote transparency by generating a proliferation of texts tend, however, to neglect both what happens to these texts after they are produced and how they are received.

Through exploring a moment in the nineteenth century when reports of particular trials and collections of cases were both becoming common and self-consciously addressing a lay audience, this article examines the efforts of both law and literature to educate the naïve reader. What emerges is not an individual who can penetrate all the secrets of law, but rather one who reads with an awareness of the limits of the text's or the trial's ability to convey an unmediated truth, and who therefore retains a certain skepticism about the very possibility of complete transparency.

Keywords: law and literature, transparency, trial reports, wilkie collins

Suggested Citation

Meyler, Bernadette A., Wilkie Collins' Law Books: Law, Literature, and Factual Precedent. IN THE SECRETS OF LAW, Austin Sarat, ed., Stanford University Press, 2007 ; Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=962746

Bernadette A. Meyler (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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