L’Affaire Lerouge: Nineteenth-Century Juries and the Violence of Authorship

This article examines the connection between legal judgment and authorship in Émile Gaboriau’s 1865 detective novel L’Affaire Lerouge, focusing on the figure of the jury as reader and writer of the accused. Demonstrating that the materiality of the word can be at once elusive and inexorable, as Madame Bovary had underscored, Lerouge expresses unspoken anxiety about narrative creation and about vulnerability to a human author—anxiety that fuses law to literature and realism to judgment. The novel consistently deploys the vocabulary of narrative creation, noting that the jury must decide between the prosecution’s thèse and the defense’s roman and casting narrative intent as inherently destructive. The article also examines nineteenth-century complaints that juries were unreliable and slow to convict—complaints that often centered on the jurors’ relationship to literature, describing them either as too fond of melodramatic literature and thus devoid of critical judgment, or as illiterate and thus too stupid to distinguish guilt from innocence.

Susanna Lee
Volume 44.1-2