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Storytelling

‘Quoting the poet’

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Katie Barclay

This chapter explores the role of storytelling in the courtroom by ordinary people. It explores how men and women used wider popular culture, including their own rhyming culture, in producing legal narratives, asking what their choices say about identity construction. It then looks at storytelling as a tool for lower-order men to negotiate power relationships. It argues that the opportunity for storytelling provided a key moment where lower-order people could assert identity in the courtroom, reshaping courtroom power dynamics to take account of their needs and interpretations of the world. In doing so, lower-order Irish people produced hybrid identities, which complicated any simple story of what it meant to be Irish.

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The stage

‘The court presented a very imposing spectacle’

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Katie Barclay

The architecture of the courtroom placed boundaries on, and provided opportunities for, the production of ‘the law’. This chapter explores the physical environment of the courtroom, looking first at the Four Courts in Dublin, then at the provincial courts. It explores how architecture situated particular legal actors in place, impacting on their capacity to participate or to hold authority, as well as the symbolic meaning of the court building as a site of power in Irish society. It then explores examples of how men and women attempted to disrupt these constraints through disorderly and creative uses of courtroom space, and the important role of the gallery in setting the ‘emotional tone’ of the production of justice. It highlights the courtroom as a site where law, identity and nation were inscribed and contested.

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Speech, sympathy and eloquence

‘It is a voice full of manly melody'

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Katie Barclay

The purpose of oratory had long been understood as moving the passions, a capacity that held special relevance for the culture of sensibility, which placed sympathy at the heart of communication. This chapter explores how lawyers used speech-making to make sympathetic engagements within the courtroom and to persuade listeners to their truth. Speech-making is a bodily practice and this chapter explores how lawyers’ bodies, voices and oratory skill became implicated in the making of manly character and so truth. As truth was produced through sympathetic exchange, emotion was placed at the heart of the legal system. Through the press, the model for manliness presented by lawyers was given public airing, making a claim to Irishness rooted in a polite education, the ability to speak well and to judge with sensibility.

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Opening speeches

An introduction

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Katie Barclay

‘Opening speeches’ introduces the historiographical background and methodological contribution of Men on trial. Masculinity is a growing field of study, but histories of masculinity in Ireland are still rare. This book uses newspaper reports of court cases to explore how men constructed their identities in legal space and this chapter introduces this source. It questions the utility of ‘hegemonic masculinities’ as a model for understanding gender identity in colonial and hierarchical contexts. Instead, it proposes the utility of a performative model of masculinity, which places emphasis on identity as embodied experience, incorporating emotion, corporeality, speech and character, and which is located in place. It argues for gender as a productive dynamic in the formation of legal and social power relationships within early nineteenth-century Ireland.

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On character and truth

‘You see McDonnell the value of a good character’

Series:

Katie Barclay

Throughout this book, men’s performances were implicated in shaping their character for the court. This chapter explores how character was used as a form of evidence within the courtroom in the assessment of truth. It continues a discussion of character through looking at how it was socially produced in relation to family, place, religion and class, highlighting how social status continued to give weight to the truth claims of speakers. It then looks at alternative models for assessing truth, including oath-taking, performances of lying and honesty, and the new forensic science. It argues that whilst other forms of identifying truth were emerging, men’s performances of character remained at the heart of the production of justice.

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Men on trial

Performing embodiment, emotion and identity in Ireland, 1800-45

Series:

Katie Barclay

Men on trial explores how the Irish perform ‘the self’ within the early nineteenth-century courtroom and its implications for law, society and nation. The history of masculinity is now a burgeoning field, as the way men created and understood their identities is explored in different contexts, from marriage to the military, and with increasing nuance. This monograph contributes to this discussion through an exploration of how men from different social groups created, discussed and enacted manliness in the context of the Irish justice system. Drawing on new methodologies from the history of emotion, as well as theories of performativity and performative space, it emphasises that manliness was not simply a cultural ideal, but something practised, felt and embodied. Moving through courtroom architecture to clothing, displays of emotion, speech-making, storytelling, humour and character, Men on trial explores how, through its performance, gender could be a creative dynamic in productions of power, destabilising traditional lines of authority. Targeted at scholars in Irish history, law and gender studies, this book argues that justice was not simply determined through weighing evidence, but through weighing men, their bodies, behaviours and emotions. In a context where the processes of justice were publicised in the press for the nation and the world, manliness and its role in the creation of justice became implicated in the making of national identity. Irish character was honed in the Irish court and through the press.

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Law and lawyers

‘The prerogative of the wig’

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Katie Barclay

This chapter explores how, through legal practice, the law comes to embody particular social relationships, notably those between coloniser and colonised, the social classes, and men and women. This process of embodiment of social hierarchies by ‘the law’ enables both its culture and the capacity of individuals to receive justice from it. To make this argument, it explores how lawyers and judges come to personify the law for the public in the press. Yet, legal space is not made by lawyers alone. Thus, ‘the law’ brings its own logic and is shaped by the social elite, the burgeoning public and juries. The latter were not just contexts that the law operated within, but became the law as they were drawn into its practice and representation.

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The cross-examination

‘He’s putting me in such a doldrum’

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Katie Barclay

Verbal dexterity was particularly useful within a legal system where the cross-examination was a key mechanism for accessing truth. This chapter explores the cross-examination as a vehicle for truth and a technique for negotiating legal and social power relationships. This chapter begins with an exploration of how Irish-language speakers and Irish-English speakers with a ‘strong brogue’ were represented in the press, highlighting the tensions that multilingual Ireland caused for a truth formed through wordplay. It then explores banter and joke-telling as a key strategy during cross-examination, before looking at the limits of the possibilities of humour, particularly for elite men who conformed to codes of honourable manliness. Through providing an opportunity for men from different ranks to challenge lawyerly manliness, the cross-examination became a space to assert Irishness as an identity, one that was legitimate, manly and rooted in the way of life of the lower orders.

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Closing arguments

A conclusion

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Katie Barclay

The Irish court was produced through sympathetic engagements between men, where performances – including of bodies, clothing, emotions, speech-making, humour, banter, wit, storytelling and more – enabled truth to be communicated. Performances in court built character for observers, they enabled truth to be assessed, and they placed men at the heart of the legal system and the production of justice. Importantly, as these performances were played out not only in the courtroom but in the press, they became implicated in larger productions of national identity. This chapter draws together the key arguments made across this volume, arguing for gender as a creative force in the production of legal, social and national power relationships.

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Bodies in court

‘Hogarth would have admired him forever’

Series:

Katie Barclay

How being embodied shapes people’s experience of the world is an area of growing interest, with physical presentation understood as a resource in the production of identity and power. This chapter explores how the body, clothing and displays of emotion ‘spoke’ within courtrooms, shaping social and legal power relationships. Performances of dress, physical appearance and emotion could all be used to judge manly behaviour and character and so were implicated in the construction of justice. Men whose bodies or clothing suggested poverty undermined claims to a masculine character formed through respectability and a beautiful body. Eccentric men disrupted such norms, offering alternative readings of the male body. Through the press, such performances contributed to debates around Irish identity, civilisation and nationhood.