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Law & Humanities Workshop

Law & Humanities Workshop
Faculty Common Room, Flavelle House, 78 Queens Park, Faculty of Law
Time: Oct 21st, 12:30 pm End: Oct 21st, 2:00 pm
Interest Categories: Law, Faculty of , Ethics, English and Drama (UTM), English (FAS), Critical Theory, Criminology, Comparative Literature (FAS), Communications, Communication, Culture, Information and Technology (UTM), Canada, 2000-, 1950-2000, 1900-1950, 1800-1900
Carolyn Sale, “The Matter of Heresy and the ‘Substance of the Realm’”

(chap. 1 of Common Properties: The Early Modern Writer and the Law, 1528 – 1628)

This selection from chapter 1 of “Common Properties: The Early Modern Writer and the Law, 1528-1628” returns to the 1530s “battle of the books” between Christopher St. German and Thomas More to read St. German’s contributions for the theory of the common law that emerges as he takes on More’s aggressive defence, as Lord Chancellor, of heresy prosecutions. Reading the “battle” for the side of the argument that has (puzzlingly) proved of such limited scholarly interest, we recover a vital dialectic of the early modern period, one that pits charity as hermeneutic principle against an orthodoxy so rigid it justifies the killing of individuals in order to suppress dissent. The structural reversal we witness across the “battle,” which sees St. German taking up the genre of dialogue even as More abandons it, takes us to the heart of St. German’s theory of the common law, which is predicated not only upon it as a branch of the "law of God" whose proper authority always arises from the "multitude," but also upon the necessity of it proceeding according to a “peaceable conversation” that assumes the contingency of all thinking — the contingency even of all "custom." Distinguishing St. German’s contributions to the “battle” from More’s as a matter of form, I pursue how St. German cultivates in his potential readership the sense that they are the true law-makers who must assert themselves to "break" "sore" laws and write new ones. This involves, for St. German, not only a detailed explication of particular laws that need addressing, but also engagement with the alleged "heresy" of the political philosophy of holding all things in common.

A light lunch will be served

For a copy of the paper, please contact n.gulezko@utoronto.ca

Simon Stern
Assistant Professor
Faculty of Law
University of Toronto
84 Queen's Park Crescent
Toronto, ON  M5S 2C5
ph: 416-978-0293
fax: 416-978-2648



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