×

Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Victory of Law: The Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil War, and American Literature, 1852-1867
     

Victory of Law: The Fourteenth Amendment, the Civil War, and American Literature, 1852-1867

by Deak Nabers
 

In Victory of Law, Deak Nabers examines developing ideas about the nature of law as reflected in literary and political writing before, during, and after the American Civil War. Nabers traces the evolution of antislavery thought from its pre-war opposition to the constitutional order of the young nation to its ultimate elevation of the U.S. Constitution as

Overview

In Victory of Law, Deak Nabers examines developing ideas about the nature of law as reflected in literary and political writing before, during, and after the American Civil War. Nabers traces the evolution of antislavery thought from its pre-war opposition to the constitutional order of the young nation to its ultimate elevation of the U.S. Constitution as an expression of the ideal of justice—an ideal embodied in the Fourteenth Amendment.

Nabers shows how the intellectual history of the Fourteenth Amendment was rooted in literary sources—including Herman Melville’s Battle-Pieces, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and William Wells Brown’s Clotel—as well as in legal texts such as Somerset v. Stewart, Dred Scott v. Sandford, and Charles Sumner’s "Freedom National" address. Not only were prominent writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Frederick Douglass instrumental in remapping the relations between law and freedom, but figures like Sumner and John Bingham helped develop a systematic antislavery reading of the Constitution which established literary texts as sources for legal authority.

This interdisciplinary study sheds light on the transformative significance of emerging legalist and constitutionalist forms of antislavery thinking on the literature of the 1850s and 1860s and the growing centrality of aesthetic considerations to antebellum American legal theory and practice—the historical terms in which a distinctively American cultural identity was conceived.

Editorial Reviews

Civil War Book Review - Michael Kent Curtis
A dense, important, and thought-provoking book.

New England Quarterly - Maurice S. Lee
Pays good attention to genre, aesthetics, and language, offering compelling and original interpretations that make significant contributions.

American Historical Review - Daniel A. Farber
Intriguing.

Modern Philology - Jeannine Marie DeLombard
Victory of Law is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship on the interanimation of nineteenth-century American law and literature prompted by the slavery crisis.

Modern Philology
Victory of Law is a valuable addition to the growing scholarship on the interanimation of nineteenth-century American law and literature prompted by the slavery crisis.

— Jeannine Marie DeLombard

American Historical Review
Intriguing.

— Daniel A. Farber

New England Quarterly
Pays good attention to genre, aesthetics, and language, offering compelling and original interpretations that make significant contributions.

— Maurice S. Lee

Civil War Book Review
A dense, important, and thought-provoking book.

— Michael Kent Curtis

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801883507
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
08/28/2006
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.86(d)

What People are Saying About This

Joan Dayan

A sophisticated and learned defense of the ardor of law, as well as a probing study of both literary assumptions and literary practice. There is no question that Nabers' passionate and rigorous analysis of the ambiguities, both legal and literary, of Melville's Battle-Pieces is unprecedented. There is simply nothing like it in Melville scholarship. In recasting the boundaries between politics and poetics, and even the secular and the sacred, Nabers sets out to make good his identification of the Fourteenth Amendment as the 'American Civil War Poem.' Large and magisterial terms such as 'slavery' and 'race' gain depth through Nabers' thorough examination of legal terminology, his profound understanding of the dangerous intoxication of generalities, and his consequent demand for definition. A formidable and demanding book, Victory of Law rethinks the very nature of constitutional law, as it breathes new life into our understanding of the 'American Renaissance.'

Samuel Otter

Combining legal, political, and literary history, Nabers has written an intellectual history of the Fourteenth Amendment. This is one of the most conceptually acute and intellectually forceful books in the field of law and literature I have seen in many years.

John Limon

Nabers’ bold and pellucid book on the imagination of the Fourteenth Amendment is necessary reading for several skewed constituencies. Literary critics will be grateful for its trenchant and startling readings of American authors—Thoreau, Hawthorne, Stowe, preeminently Melville—whose work was importantly dedicated, content and form, to the legal problematics of emancipation. Legal scholars will be assured by Nabers’ erudition and charmed by his measured tribute to the legal imagination. (Like critics of the law, Nabers knows that the law is self-contradictory and ideological. But he treats self-contradictions as opportunities for the crucial mating of strange bedfellows—positive law and natural law, natural law and the Constitution—and is as apt to discover emancipative as repressive potential in American ideology.) Americanists will find cause for celebration in the precise elegance of Nabers’ choreography of ideology, law, history, and text. And, at every point of the conceptual history, the imaginative triumph of the Fourteenth Amendment comes into sharper and sharper focus.

Meet the Author

Deak Nabers is an assistant professor of English at Brown University.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews