Melodrama and Law: Feminizing The Juridical Gaze

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Harvard Women's Law Journal


The machinery of the legal system, consisting of far-reaching statutes and common law, also is made up of atoms: those individual human lives profoundly affected by the law. Trollope demands particulars. She insists on examining the daily-lived effects of a general law. And in doing so, she exposes the masculinized gaze of the law as defective when it comes to envisioning injuries done to women. This masculine quality of the law was as pervasive in Trollope's time as it is today. The modern juridical gaze has a blind spot where women's harms are concerned, all too often failing to recognize the existence of any compensable injury. In analyzing those invisible harms in the New Poor Law that Trollope makes visible in Jessie Phillips, I will first define key terms; second, examine the statute and pertinent sections of the Report of the Royal Commissioners; and third, focus on the novel itself as a social critique of the law.

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