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Kathryn D. Temple
Georgetown University (Washington, DC 20057-0001)
Loving Justice: Blackstone's Commentaries and the Affective Origins of Anglo-American Conceptions of Justice

Completion of a book on literary and aesthetic conventions used by William Blackstone in his four-volume legal treatise, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769).

This project reinterprets William Blackstone's influential Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769) as a literary text embedded in generic and aesthetic conventions, re-reading it through the lenses of affect and aesthetic theory. I argue that although the enormously popular Commentaries represented a brilliant application of Enlightenment reason to English legal history, "reason" and "history" alone do not explain its popularity or influence. Instead, the Commentaries relied on an affective aesthetics to convince readers that English law and justice were one. Making art of English law, Blackstone encouraged his readers to FEEL as much as reason their way to justice. Through chapters on desire/disgust, melancholia, terror/tenderness/torture, shame and happiness, I explain Blackstone's poetics in the literary context that magnified his impact on Anglo-American conceptions of justice.

Project fields:
American Literature; British Literature; Law and Jurisprudence

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2016 – 6/30/2017