When lawyers speak of legal fictions, they don’t mean novels like To Kill a Mockingbird or Bleak House but, rather, assumptions that they know are made-up—even untrue. One law school offers this crisp, if paradoxical, explanation: a legal fiction is “a fictitious fact that is treated as true under the law for purposes of legal, administrative or other expediency” (WashULaw 2012). The law, in other words, relies on fictions to do its work. One particular legal fiction, corporate personhood, has gotten considerable attention since 2010, when Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission extended the free speech rights of corporations, thereby allowing them to pour money into elections. While the decision outraged many (and understandably so), the Roberts Court did not bestow a constitutional right to corporations out of thin air. Well over a century earlier, Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company (1886) established that corporations are persons...
Modernism and the Meaning of Corporate Persons by Lisa Siraganian
Clare Eby is professor of English at the University of Connecticut and author of Dreiser and Veblen, Saboteurs of the Status Quo (1998) and Until Choice Do Us Part: Marriage Reform in the Progressive Era (2014) as well as an editor of The Cambridge History of the American Novel (2011). She is completing a book about how the legal fiction of corporate personhood siphons rights away from actual human persons.
Clare Eby; Modernism and the Meaning of Corporate Persons by Lisa Siraganian. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 September 2021; 67 (3): 352–357. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-9373772
Download citation file: