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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Legal History Workshop to be Held on Monday, November 11

The Legal History Workshop will be held by The Program in Law and History on Monday, November 11 in room 15 of Mondale Hall from 2:00 to 3:25pm. At this session, Professor Jeannine DeLombard will present her paper "The Novel and the Reconstruction Amendments."

To gain insight into popular legal consciousness in the aftermath of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil War Amendments, scholars have turned to fiction by a range of authors, from reconstructed Southerner George Washington Cable, to Klan propagandist Thomas Dixon, to activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Helpfully, some novels--notably those by Homer Plessy's future lawyer, Albion Tourgée--feature characters who declaim about citizenship for pages on end. But turn-of-the-century American fiction seems at least as preoccupied with redressing civil wrongs as with advocating civil rights. Viewing Reconstruction litigation and legislation alongside the contemporaneous rise of torts (notably, dignitary harms such as the invasion of privacy), my paper argues that an important cultural effect of the Civil Rights Amendments was to translate the official, constitutional language of rights into civil law's more individualized, private idiom of responsibility and dignity. In the process, "full citizenship" came to encompass not merely external duties and privileges but an emphatically private civil selfhood. I hope to prompt a more open-ended discussion in the workshop itself about popular legal consciousness and how different areas of law are taken up by the public at different moments of legal historical crisis, with the periods before and after Emancipation providing a revealing case study.