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Extent: 258 pp



Equity Stirring
First Edition
Gary Watt    

Sir Frederick Pollock wrote that 'English-speaking lawyers ...have specialised the name of Equity'. It is typical for legal textbooks on the law of equity to acknowledge the diverse ways in which the word 'equity' is used and then to focus on the legal sense of the word to the exclusion of all others. There may be a professional responsibility on textbook writers to do just that. If so, there is a counterpart responsibility to read the law imaginatively and to read what non-lawyers have said of equity with an open mind. This book is an exploration of the meaning of equity as artists and thinkers have portrayed it within the law and without. Watt finds in law and literature an equity that is necessary to good life and good law but which does not require us to subscribe to a moral or 'natural law' ideal. It is an equity that takes a principled and practical stand against rigid formalism and unthinking routine in law and life, and so provides timely resistance to current forces of extremism and entitlement culture. The project is an educational one in the true etymological sense of leading the reader out into new territory. The book will provide the legal scholar with deep insight into the rhetorical, literary and historical foundations of the idea of equity in law, and it will provide the law student with a cultural history of, and an imaginative introduction to, the technical law of equity and trusts. Scholars and students of such disciplines as literature, classics, history, theology, theatre and rhetoric will discover new insights into the art of equity in the law and beyond. Along the way, Watt offers a new theory on the naming of Dickens' chancery case Jarndyce and Jarndyce and suggests a new connection between Shakespeare and the origin of equity in modern law.

'This beautiful book, deeply learned in the branch of jurisprudence we call equity and deeply engaged with the western literary tradition, gives new life to equity in the legal sense by connecting it with equity in the larger sense: as it is defined both in ordinary language and experience and by great writers, especially Dickens and Shakespeare. Equity Stirring transforms our sense of what equity is and can be and demonstrates in a new and graceful way the importance of connecting law with other arts of mind and language.'
James Boyd White, author of Living Speech: Resisting the Empire of Force

'Equity Stirring' is a fine example of interdisciplinary legal scholarship at its best. Watt has managed to produce a book that is fresh and innovative, and thoroughly accessible. Deploying a range of familiar, and not so familiar, texts from across the humanities, Watt has presented a fascinating historical and literary commentary on the evolution of modern ideas of justice and equity.
Ian Ward, Professor of Law at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

"this is an important, compendious, and thought-provoking work that should be on the shelves of everyone interested in equity studies."
Mark Fortier, Law and Literature

"there is much of interest to the legal historian...the book's insights and erudition did engage this rather sceptical reader, who would like to believe that equity could achieve justice, but fears rather that it can only be as fair as the court dispensing it."
Rosemary Auchmuty, The Journal of Legal History

"With luck, Equity Stirring will stir...taxonomic positivists from their culture of entitlement, waking them to the possibility that law and justice do not form the perfect quadration".
Nick Piska, Social & Legal Studies

"a highly imaginative, original and refreshing foray into the legal and ethical import of concepts too often thought to be difficult, archaic and obscure...Watt gives us a way into the subject which is forceful in its imaginative reach and its ethical import..."
David Gurnham, Law, Culture and the Humanities

Gary Watt is a Professor of Law at the University of Warwick, and one of the General Editors of Law and Humanities. He was named UK 'Law Teacher of the Year' 2009.

July 2009

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