Criticism Theory

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By Lisa Rodensky

This interdisciplinary learn of criminal and literary narratives argues that the novel's specific strength to symbolize the internal lifetime of its characters either demanding situations the law's definitions of legal accountability and reaffirms them. by way of connecting significant novelists with renowned jurists and felony historians of the period, it deals profound new methods of considering the Victorian interval.

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Extra resources for The Crime in Mind: Criminal Responsibility and the Victorian Novel

Sample text

By separating intent from act, Dickens enacts a gap that, like the tensions between conduct and character, upsets our assumptions about criminal responsibility. The persistence of the questions Fagin’s crime raises—from the nineteenth century through our own decade—is provocative. As I will discuss later, readers have disagreed about what, precisely, Fagin hangs for. Why does this crime give rise to such continued and sometimes heated discussion? 2 The question remains fertile because the crime as Dickens represents it at once contests and reaffirms the limits of criminality.

These familiar pairings are both necessary and inadequate, even perilous, since they invite us to imagine that ideas easily fall under one heading or the other. Such pairings also create the opportunity to deceive, to suggest that one is limited to this or that alternative. There is a clear need for the distinctions presented by terms like objective/subjective, conduct/character, internal/external, but we must also recognize, as Dickens and George Eliot ask us to do, that these distinctions will eventually fail us.

As I will discuss later, readers have disagreed about what, precisely, Fagin hangs for. Why does this crime give rise to such continued and sometimes heated discussion? 2 The question remains fertile because the crime as Dickens represents it at once contests and reaffirms the limits of criminality. By deactivating Fagin’s act (as I will later explain), Dickens tests the limits of liability. At the same time, though, he stabilizes those limits by making Fagin’s intent fiercely active. The novel Oliver Twist can make an intent as materially present as the acts it represents.

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