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The Case of LiteratureForensic Narratives from Goethe to Kafka$
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Arne Höcker

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781501749353

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501749353.001.0001

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The Fiction of Authority

(p.152) 8 Conclusion
The Case of Literature

Arne Höcker

Cornell University Press

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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