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Title: The chronotope of the courtroom : Bakhtinian dialogics and actions for breach of promise of marriage in mid-nineteenth century legal literature and fiction
Author: Haselberger, Jennifer Marie.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3543 9011
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2005
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In nineteenth-century England one of the most popular types of civil legal actions was the suit for breach of promise of marriage, wherein the plaintiff, most often a woman, could bring an action to recover financial damages from a man to whom she was engaged if he failed to fulfil his promise to marry her. When brought to trial these actions provided a point of intersection for competing ideologies of marriage, gender, and common law, and as such generated a substantial amount of interest from the politicians who legislated them, the legal community that regulated their practice, and the general reading public whose behaviour they governed. This interest resulted in the production of a variety of texts that incorporated or reported on issues of breach of promise, including legal practice manuals instructing solicitors and barristers on how to handle the cases when in court, published proceedings and newspaper articles giving reports of culturally interesting or significant trials, and novels that incorporated actions for breach of promise into their romantic plots. However, because of the monologic nature of the legal environment, which I term the chronotope of the courtroom, the majority of these genres frequently represented actions for breach of promise in a manner that reproduced the unassailable, authoritarian discourses of the courtroom rather than attempting to explore the inherently problematic nature of such discourses and the legal fictions they construct. The exception to this is the dialogic novel, which I argue was developing throughout the time period under investigation in this thesis. For, by drawing on the theories of language and the novel developed by Mikhail Bakhtin and other members of the Bakhtin Circle, this thesis suggests that it is only that developing genre that is capable of portraying the struggle that occurs between the centripetal and centrifugal forces of culture within a given text, and hence of representing the essential 'messiness' of actions for breach of promise of marriage. In this thesis these characteristics will be examined at various moments in the evolution of the genre, by considering texts from three prominent authors at different periods of their artistic careers. Hence the key fictional texts of this thesis are Charles Dickens's novels Pickwick Papers and Bleak House, Elizabeth Gaskell's first and last novels, Mary Barton and Wives and Daughters, and Anthony Trollope's first novel The Macdermots of Ballycloran and his later works The Small House at Allington and The Eustace Diamonds.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available