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Novel Judgments addresses the ways in which jurisprudential ideas and themes are embedded and explored within nineteenth century Anglo-American prose fiction.
The nineteenth century is the crucible of the "juridical imaginary": that is, of the jurisprudential ideas and concepts which inform the law to this day. The novel not only participates actively in the construction of this juridical imaginary, devising memorable tropes and figures of law and its theory, it goes even further: providing a critique of that construction which points the reader towards a new juridical imaginary, one which may re-imagine, for example, the "command of the sovereign" (Pride and Prejudice), the ethics of law (Ivanhoe), or the "rights of (wo)man" (Frankenstein).
As dramatisations of the principal issues and movements of nineteenth century legal theory, these novels may therefore be read jurisprudentially. For, as William MacNeil demonstrates, they make novel judgments about legal theory - judgments which not only finds it wanting, but which also carry with them a potential for transforming a juridical imaginary that is still with us.