, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 207-229
Date: 05 Feb 2005

A Memorial for jeremy bentham: memory, fiction, and writing the law

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Abstract

At a moment when the European Union and globalisation are, in their different contexts, bringing systems of traditional law (like the Common Law), whose texts are presented as monuments to historical legal cultures, into confrontation with systems of written law which claim to be rational embodiments of universal principles of liberal justice, how might we remember Jeremy Bentham, the pioneer of the critique of the former in the name of the latter? This essay in ‘law-and-literature’ looks at the relation between memory, fiction and writing in both the Common Law and in the two last projects for which the radical legal positivist sought to be remembered: the Constitutional Code for the Use of All Nations and All Governments Professing Liberal Opinions (1830) and Auto-Icon: Or, Farther Uses of the Dead to the Living (published posthumously in 1842). By examining Bentham’s linguistic theory and practice, the article raises questions about the relations between the ‘law’ of writing and the writing of law.