The Fiction of Authority
This chapter explains that while literary texts in the nineteenth century continued the convention of referencing historical cases, they did so in order to question institutional authority and to criticize the epistemological foundations and the legitimacy of legal judgments informed by psychological narrative. A scene from Hoffmann's “The Story of Serapion” in The Serapion Brethren may exemplify this new status of literary fiction in the nineteenth century. Hoffmann's rigorous rejection of medical authority in the analysis of states of mind for the purpose of legal decision making shows his deep concern about the predictability of the law and the dangers of compromising legal authority with knowledge based on philosophical speculation. Literary fiction, according to Hoffmann's rendering of romantic authorship, develops in opposition to psychological rationality and its claim to objectivity: poetical talent is based on methodological madness. This model of authorship, on the one hand, assigns to literary authors a special ability to depict questionable states of mind, and on the other hand locates this ability in authors' own special psychological intuition.
Keywords: literary texts, historical cases, nineteenth century, legal judgments, psychological narrative, E. T. A. Hoffmann, literary fiction, legal decision making, legal authority, romantic authorship
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