Monday, March 9, 2015

LaCroix Treasonous Tutors in Mantel's Fiction

Alison L. LaCroix, University of Chicago Law School, has posted A Man for All Treasons: Crimes by and Against the Tudor State in the Novels of Hilary Mantel, which is forthcoming in Fatal Fictions: Crime in Law and Literature, ed. Martha C. Nussbaum, Richard H. McAdams and Alison L. LaCroix.  Here is the abstract:    
Thomas Cromwell (credit)
This essay, written for a forthcoming volume titled Fatal Fictions: Crime in Law and Literature (Martha Nussbaum, Richard McAdams & Alison LaCroix, eds.), examines the crime of treason as depicted in Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall (2009) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012). In the novels, Mantel provides a corrective to the enduringly popular view of Thomas Cromwell as at best a Tudor-era fixer, and at worst as a murderer and torturer – a view made famous by Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons (1960). Instead, Mantel’s Cromwell is the industrious creator of the modern administrative state. In this characterization, Mantel follows in the scholarly path of Geoffrey Elton, whose Tudor Revolution in Government (1953) rehabilitated Cromwell by arguing that he reformed English government by replacing personal rule with modern bureaucracy and systematizing the royal finances. In different ways, both Mantel’s and Elton’s account rebut the image of Cromwell as a criminal. But I argue that Mantel’s Cromwell in fact should be seen as representing two species of crime: crimes against the state, in the form of treason; and crimes by the state, in the form of espionage and torture. The novels present both forms of crime as occurring at the same historical moment in which the modern state was being formed. Because crimes against the state and by the state both presuppose the existence of the state itself, Mantel’s and Elton’s modernizing Cromwell may not be as distinct from Bolt’s devious Cromwell as the competing accounts would suggest.

1 comment:

Andrew Lyall said...

Mantel's books also provide a revision or corrective to the view, again based on A man for All Seasons, which presented More as a gentle and saintly scholar. I fact he had a protestant dissenter tortured in his own cellar and then burned at the stake for possessing a bible in English and refusing to give the names of others who had imported English bibles. More was a Catholic fundamentalist who was horrified at the idea that young cowherds should be bale to read the bible, whereas Cromwell supported the Protestant Reformation, the bible in English and did not have people burned at the stake. Correct this if I am wrong.