Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stern on Blackstone's Legal Actors

Simon Stern, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, has posted Blackstone's Legal Actors: The Passions of a Rational Jurist, which is forthcoming in Nancy Johnson, ed., Impassioned Jurisprudence: Law, Literature and Emotion, 1660-1800 (Bucknell University Press, Aperçus series, 2014).  Here is the abstract:    
The success of Blackstone’s Commentaries is usually attributed to the ambition of his project: to give a synthetic and integrated overview of the common law. Blackstone’s effort, however strained, to display the law’s coherence, helps to explain why the Commentaries were taken up by so many generations of avid readers, but the book’s success also owes something to Blackstone’s method of showcasing this coherence and soliciting the reader’s enthusiasm for it. Blackstone does not simply methodize the law; he also personifies the law as an active force that produces consistency, and he similarly casts the reader as someone who partakes of the same sensibility and appreciates the same virtues. Blackstone places both the law and the law student in an affective relation to the rationalizing aims promoted in the Commentaries. By positing, within the text, a reader who attaches to the law in this fashion, Blackstone encourages his reader to take it for granted that this sense of attachment is part and parcel of the study of law.