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"Unspeakable crimes": Charles Brockden Brown's Memoirs of Stephen Calvert and the Rights of the Accused
Justin D. Edwards
Law and Literature
Vol. 21, No. 2 (Summer 2009), pp. 214-233
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/lal.2009.21.2.214
Page Count: 20
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This article considers, from a contextual and poststructuralist perspective, due process in The Memoirs of Stephen Calvert by the early American novelist (and trained lawyer) Charles Brockden Brown. Brown's writing, the article suggests, participates in the thematic and rhetorical interface between law and literature. For although his fiction is fragmentary and nightmarish, moving from gothic cities to treacherous frontiers, the narration of transgressions and the law remain constant tropes. Thus, lawyers, conmen, criminals, and doppelgangers appear and reappear in works such as Stephen Calvert. The article focuses on how Brown puts the principles of the rights of the accused on trial in this posthumously published novel, for characters are identified as criminals in clear violation of the Fifth Amendment, which requires an articulation of the charges that are brought against the accused. In this, Stephen Calvert poses considerable legal questions: How are charges articulated? How are they presented in narrative form? And what happens when crimes are said to be "unspeakable"? The interrogation of these questions is highly significant in a new nation that is said to uphold due process of law.
Law and Literature © 2009 Taylor & Francis, Ltd.