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Thomas Hardy's Legal Fictions

Trish Ferguson

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Explores Thomas Hardy’s engagement with Victorian legal debates in his prose fiction

This book examines how Hardy’s role as an acting magistrate and his lifelong interest in the law impacted on his prose fiction. Hardy’s novels and short stories are examined in the context of debates surrounding some of the seismic legal reforms of the nineteenth century, namely the birth of adversarial trial procedure, the evolving definition of legal insanity, the campaign for legal equality for married women and heightened discussion over land law reform. This book situates Hardy’s treatment of these issues in the context of debate in Parliament, the press, periodicals and sensation fiction. While noting the influence of sensation fiction on his literary output this study argues that Hardy rejects the conventional endings of realist and sensation fiction to provoke his readership to examine legal questions which he leaves unanswered in a modernist form of training in judicial reasoning.

About the Author

Trish Ferguson is currently lecturing at Liverpool Hope University, having completed her PhD at Trinity College Dublin. Her primary research interests are in Victorian literature and culture, in particular the interdisciplinary nexus of law and literature in that era. She has also edited a collection of essays entitled Victorian Time: Technologies, Standardizations, Catastrophes, which is a study of literary responses to how industrialization affected perceptions of time in the Victorian era.


Ferguson offers many fine readings of his fiction while enlarging the cultural context that a reader might bring to the study of it.
- Richard Sylvia, Review 19

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