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‘Hell has no flames, only windows that won’t open’: justice as escape in law and literature

‘Hell has no flames, only windows that won’t open’: justice as escape in law and literature
‘Hell has no flames, only windows that won’t open’: justice as escape in law and literature
Struggles for justice are commonly articulated in literature and drama through metaphors of physical encumbrance (of being cramped, constrained, entangled and mired) and escape (to open landscapes and a view of the horizon and sky). What is less well known or observed is that this metaphorical opposition of encumbrance/escape plays an important role in legal language too. This article traces the appearance of this metaphor across some key moments in English criminal law in which injustice is conceptualised metaphorically in terms of being held up, kept down or back, etc. and that achieving a just outcome necessitates shaking off the encumbrance and getting free. Through a close reading of some important legal judgments, it shows how establishing this intersection between law and literature helps to advance our understanding of the plausibility and persuasiveness of legal language. We apply this insight to producing a new reading of the Supreme Court’s recent reworking of dishonesty in Ivey v Genting Casinos [2017] SC 67, as well as a novel re-examination of established and apparently familiar authorities on recklessness and excuses to murder.
metaphor, law and literature
1752-1483
269-293
Gurnham, David
f63e1a54-5924-4fd0-a3f5-521311cee101
Gurnham, David
f63e1a54-5924-4fd0-a3f5-521311cee101

Gurnham, David (2019) ‘Hell has no flames, only windows that won’t open’: justice as escape in law and literature. Law and Humanities, 13 (2), 269-293. (doi:10.1080/17521483.2019.1670900).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Struggles for justice are commonly articulated in literature and drama through metaphors of physical encumbrance (of being cramped, constrained, entangled and mired) and escape (to open landscapes and a view of the horizon and sky). What is less well known or observed is that this metaphorical opposition of encumbrance/escape plays an important role in legal language too. This article traces the appearance of this metaphor across some key moments in English criminal law in which injustice is conceptualised metaphorically in terms of being held up, kept down or back, etc. and that achieving a just outcome necessitates shaking off the encumbrance and getting free. Through a close reading of some important legal judgments, it shows how establishing this intersection between law and literature helps to advance our understanding of the plausibility and persuasiveness of legal language. We apply this insight to producing a new reading of the Supreme Court’s recent reworking of dishonesty in Ivey v Genting Casinos [2017] SC 67, as well as a novel re-examination of established and apparently familiar authorities on recklessness and excuses to murder.

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Justice as Escape in Law and Literature - Accepted Manuscript
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Accepted/In Press date: 3 September 2019
e-pub ahead of print date: 2 October 2019
Published date: 2019
Keywords: metaphor, law and literature

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 434053
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/434053
ISSN: 1752-1483
PURE UUID: bd0df312-9669-4a22-8042-e33d001cd549
ORCID for David Gurnham: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6807-7587

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Date deposited: 11 Sep 2019 16:30
Last modified: 23 Jul 2022 04:43

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