Eighteenth-Century Fiction and the Law of Property

Synopsis

In Eighteenth-Century Fiction and the Law of Property, Wolfram Schmidgen draws on legal and economic writings to analyze the description of houses, landscapes, and commodities in eighteenth-century fiction. His study argues that such descriptions are important to the British imagination of community. By making visible what it means to own something, they illuminate how competing concepts of property define the boundaries of the individual, of social community, and of political systems. In this way, Schmidgen recovers description as a major feature of eighteenth-century prose, and he makes his case across a wide range of authors, including Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, William Blackstone, Adam Smith, and Ann Radcliffe. The book's most incisive theoretical contribution lies in its careful insistence on the unity of the human and the material: in Schmidgen's argument, persons and things are inescapably entangled. This approach produces fresh insights into the relationship between law, literature, and economics.