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This chapter is a study of law and legal knowledge production in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, among other works. Melville illuminates a transformation of the idea and practice of equity from the early modern high conciliar jurisdiction of the Lord Chancellor to a system of jurisprudence more appropriate to establishing precedents for commercial legal culture. Melville stages allegories of this taming of equity, and of the danger of modern ambitions to capture the raw power of natural justice that had been acknowledged not simply as sovereignty but as the discretionary power of the conscience of the sovereign. Melville gives us something like a natural history of justice—amenable to the role that the category of natural history plays in the development of critical theory—a radical and creative jurisprudence profoundly aware of its small place in deeper histories, only some of which are human.

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