Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies

Paper Text – $34.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3516-1
Publication Date
May 2017
Page Count
192 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies

Law and Distributed Selfhood
Kevin Curran

Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies offers the first sustained examination of the relationship between law and selfhood in Shakespeare’s work. Taking five plays and the sonnets as case studies, Kevin Curran argues that law provided Shakespeare with the conceptual resources to imagine selfhood in social and distributed terms, as a product of interpersonal exchange or as a gathering of various material forces. In the course of these discussions, Curran reveals Shakespeare’s distinctly communitarian vision of personal and political experience, the way he regarded living, thinking, and acting in the world as materially and socially embedded practices.
At the center of the book is Shakespeare’s fascination with questions that are fundamental to both law and philosophy: What are the sources of agency? What counts as a person? For whom am I responsible, and how far does that responsibility extend? What is truly mine? Curran guides readers through Shakespeare’s responses to these questions, paying careful attention to both historical and intellectual contexts.
The result is a book that advances a new theory of Shakespeare’s imaginative relationship to law and an original account of law’s role in the ethical work of his plays and sonnets. Readers interested in Shakespeare, theater and philosophy, law, and the history of ideas will find Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies to be an essential resource. 
About the Author

KEVIN CURRAN is a professor of early modern literature at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. He is the author of Marriage, Performance, and Politics at the Jacobean Court and editor of Shakespeare and Judgment.

"Curran mobilizes for the study of Shakespeare a deep knowledge of Enlightenment and modern philosophy, and is equally adept at negotiating the complexities of early modern English law and culture."—Luke Wilson, author of Theaters of Intention: Drama and the Law in Early Modern England 

Shakespeare’s Legal Ecologies is intelligent, lucidly written, and consistently engaging. Kevin Curran demonstrates that Shakespeare’s 'thinking with' the law goes hand in hand with his articulation of a transactional and social, rather than bounded, conception of selfhood. This book is marked by scrupulous archival work and close engagement with twentieth- and twenty-first-century philosophy; its achievement is to demonstrate how early modern legal discourse provides Shakespeare with an imaginative resource for articulating an ethics of exteriority.” —Garrett A. Sullivan Jr., author of Memory and Forgetting in English Renaissance Drama: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Webster

"This law and literature text will be most helpful for those scholars, especially Shakespearean ones, who desire a new take on the nature of selfhood. The writer combines notions of national identity with larger concepts of justice, obligation, individualism, and society. Clearly recognizing the scholarship of seminal scholars—legal and political—Curran grapples with a new way to investigate law, literature, poetics, ethics, and the theater." —Renaissance Quarterly

“Curran’s book is a perfect example not only of how significant law was to Shakespeare but also of the theoretical and political resources it offers to literary criticism today." —Studies in English Literature