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Kathryn D. Temple
Georgetown University (Washington, DC 20057-0001)

Summer Stipends
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2015 – 8/31/2015

The "Feeling Heart" of English Justice In Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England

Summer research and writing on British Literature, Law and Jurisprudence, and Legal History.

This chapter, part of my project on affect in Blackstone’s monumental Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769), rereads gothic imagery in the Commentaries as context for Blackstone’s odd treatment of peine forte et dure, an English practice in which those who refused to submit to English courts were pressed to death. Peine forte et dure put the lie to Enlightenment humanitarian ideals in that it involved a slow, methodical practice of pressing in a legally-regulated-for-optimal-terror dungeon. My chapter unpacks this part of the Commentaries to address the relationship between the “tenderness” of the law (a sentimental, sensual and emotive response) and the torture it inflicts. In the end, the representation of the law as “tender” in its exquisite sensibility to pain becomes more than a rationalization for torture. Instead, it expresses the tension between humanitarianism and exceptionalism that drives the discourse on torture in Western culture today.