Legal Authority and Savagery in Judicial Rhetoric: Sexual Violence and the Criminal Courts

D. Gurnham

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    Abstract

    This article explores narrative devices in legal rhetoric, and the use of these devices for asserting the authority to distinguish lawful from unlawful inflictions of bodily harm. The argument made here is that the moral language adopted by judges in criminal appeal judgments on risky sexual and/or violent consensual acts embraces a set of interconnecting arratives otherwise observed in literature, and relating to gender, sexuality and race. I try to show how the reading of these legal cases is enriched by identifying these narratives, locating them as rhetorical strategies and reflecting on their uses in judicial decision-making. In particular, I argue that in the case-law explored here, these interconnected narratives are deployed in order to assert law’s dominance over an imagined ‘savage’ other. Through this ongoing repudiation of savagery the distinctions between normative and nonnormative, violent and non-violent, lawful and unlawful are constructed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-137
    Number of pages20
    JournalInternational Journal of Law in Context
    Volume7
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011

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