Criminal Associations: Law, Causation, and Allan Pinkerton’s The Mollie Maguires and the Detectives
In this paper, I will show how Allan Pinkerton’s 1877 novel The Mollie Maguires and the Detectives, based on a real-life crime investigation, partakes in late nineteenth-century debates on legal causation. I will argue that Pinkerton’s novel advocates for a distributed notion of responsibility in order to prosecute the Irish-American secret society of the Mollie Maguires. At the same time, the novel attempts to limit individual liability within this distributed agency by appealing to the register of tort law, in order to protect the detective protagonist against appearing as an accessory to the murders he knew were being planned.
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About the American Literature Seminar
The American Literature Seminar, active since 2013, provides a forum for works in progress that explore the history of American Literature.
The seminar is sponsored by the Department of English at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of Chicago. The seminar’s co-coordinators are Walter Benn Michaels (UIC) and Kenneth Warren (University of Chicago).