Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Cavallaro on Detective Fiction and Legal Culture
Posted by Mary L. Dudziak
"The detective novel, as a literary genre, has traditionally presupposed a legal culture in which the guilty can be identified and their crimes satisfyingly punished, in which the central question is “whodunnit?” Yet, over its history, the detective novel has had a dialogic relationship to the legal culture it depicts, undergoing transformations that reflect as well as affect those observed in the law." So begins Rosanna Cavallaro's (Suffolk) new paper, Solution to Dissolution: Detective Fiction from Wilkie Collins to Gabriel Garcia Marquez. She continues, "The degree to which the detective narrative is framed by a shared faith in a solution has diminished, and skepticism about both the factual and procedural aspects of detection and punishment has taken hold. This paper seeks to explore the congruence between these fictional moves and the corresponding transformation of cultural attitudes about law and legal institutions." The paper has just been published in the Texas Journal of Women and the Law. The abstract is here: In this paper, I describe the transformation of legal culture over the hundred year period framed by two works of detective fiction, Wilkie Collins' THE LAW AND THE LADY, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez's CHRONICLE OF A DEATH FORETOLD. I contend that Collins's novel represents legal culture as constructed on perceptions of factual and legal objectivity and rigid gender castes, while Garcia Marquez deconstructs these same aspects of the genre in order to represent law as without authority, facts as ambiguous, and gender roles as misleading.