Troubling Confessions Speaking Guilt in Law and Literature

ISBN-10: 0226075869
ISBN-13: 9780226075860
Edition: 2000
Authors: Peter Brooks
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Description: The constant call to admit guilt amounts almost to a tyranny of confession today. We demand tell-all tales in the public dramas of the courtroom, the talk shows, and in print, as well as in the more private spaces of the confessional and the  More...

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Book details

List price: $23.00
Copyright year: 2000
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Publication date: 10/1/2001
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 212
Size: 6.00" wide x 8.75" long x 0.50" tall
Weight: 0.682

The constant call to admit guilt amounts almost to a tyranny of confession today. We demand tell-all tales in the public dramas of the courtroom, the talk shows, and in print, as well as in the more private spaces of the confessional and the psychoanalyst's office. Yet we are also deeply uneasy with the concept: how can we tell whether a confession is true? What if it has been coerced? In Troubling Confessions, Peter Brooks juxtaposes cases from law and literature to explore the kinds of truth we associate with confessions, and why we both rely on them and regard them with suspicion. For centuries the law has considered confession to be "the queen of proofs," yet it has also seen a need to regulate confessions and the circumstances under which they are made, as evidenced in the continuing debate over the Miranda decision. Western culture has made confessional speech a prime measure of authenticity, seeing it as an expression of selfhood that bears witness to personal truth. Yet the urge to confess may be motivated by inextricable layers of shame, guilt, self-loathing, the desire to propitiate figures of authority. Literature has often understood the problematic nature of confession better than the law, as Brooks demonstrates in perceptive readings of legal cases set against works by Rousseau, Dostoevsky, Joyce, and Camus, among others. Mitya in The Brothers Karamazov captures the trouble with confessional speech eloquently when he offers his confession with the anguished plea: this is a confession; handle with care. By questioning the truths of confession, Peter Brooks challenges us to reconsider how we demand confessions and what we do with them.

Peter Brooks is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholar at Princeton University. He is the author of many works of literary criticism, including "Henry James Goes to Paris" (Princeton), "Reading for the Plot", "Psychoanalysis and Storytelling", and "Troubling Confessions". He is also the author of two novels, "The Emperor's Body" and "World Elsewhere".

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Storytelling without Fear? The Confession Problem
Confessor and Confessant
The Overborne Will--A Case Study
Confession, Selfhood, and the Religious Tradition
The Culture of Confession, Therapy, and the Law
The Confessional Imagination
Notes
Index

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