Cathrine O. Frank publishes new book on law, literature, and the idea of character

Cathrine O. Frank, Ph.D., professor of English in the University of New England School of Arts and Humanities and coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities major, has published a monograph titled “Character: Writing and Reputation in Victorian Law and Literature.”

The book is part of the series “Edinburgh Critical Studies in Law, Literature, and the Humanities.”

Frank’s book draws on Victorian novels, legal treatises, legislative debate, and periodical literature to explore how conventions of literary character-making mingled with character-centered legal developments to produce a jurisprudential theory of character that extended beyond the legal profession.

Questions explored in the book include: Why would Nathaniel Hawthorne and George Eliot grant their fallen women an anachronistic right to silence that could only worsen their punishment? Why did Anne Bronte and Elizabeth Gaskell find gossip such a useful source of information when lawyers excluded it has hearsay? How did Anthony Trollope’s work as an editor influence his preoccupation throughout his novels with libel?

Approaching character as a graphic sign, a moral category, a professional reputation, and a legal and literary construct, Frank traces the way key categories and representational strategies for imagining individual personhood also defined communities and mediated relations within them, in life and in fiction.