Renaissance Tool Abuse and the Legal History of the Sudden

  • Luke Wilson
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)


The past decade has seen an increasingly programmatic critical interest in Renaissance objects as such, a development explained in the introduction to the recent collection Subject and Object in Renaissance Culture as both a dialectical response to several decades’ preoccupation with subjects and as an outgrowth of a concern with material culture. The editors also attempt to offer an alternative to traditional histories of the relation between subject and object,2 and yet despite a searching account of the early modern history of objects the reorientation promised through a displacement of the subject ends up conceptually constrained in familiar ways, especially in a recourse to the principle of mutual causation, in which subjects and objects are inevitably seen to constitute one another. Perhaps the problem lies in the editors’ implicit assumption that all things are objects, that is, inescapably involved with subjects; perhaps the displacement of the subject requires the acknowledgment of things as things. In any case, in an attempt to think about the relation between object and thing, and about how things may become objects and objects things, I want to consider here a special class of objects — tools — and a special case of use — misuse — in early modern legal and literary texts.


Sixteenth Century Legal History Criminal Trial Grand Jury Murder Weapon 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Luke Wilson

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