"From Lady Justice to Lady Godiva: (Im)Partial Justice and The Spectacle of the Courtroom"

In this paper, I examine how the ideal and icon of impartial justice are supplanted by an image which closer approximates Lady Godiva as the press and reading public became inured to and obsessed with the law. The mystique of an impartial system of law is stripped bare as the oppositions between moral and juridical law are played out before the court of public opinion. Consistent with the legend of Godiva, we are meant to turn our back and allow this travesty to pass unnoticed. I refer to such high-profile cases at those of Caroline Norton and Charles Dilke, along with fictional trials in George Eliot, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, James Fenimore Cooper, and Mark Twain which critique the dispensation and dissolution of justice.

The iconography of "lady justice" provides a rich source for a discussion of the problematizing of law and justice in the nineteenth century.