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The University of Southampton
Institute of Criminal Justice Research

Crime, Desire and Law's Unconscious: Law, Literature and Culture

Published: 1 August 2014

Dr David Gurnham, Reader in Law at the University of Southampton and ICJR member has published a new book last month entitled 'Crime, Desire and Law's Unconscious: Law, Literature and Culture (Routledge - GlassHouse books, 2014). Dr Gurnham's research interests are criminal law, law and literature, healthcare law and legal theory. Recent publications include the monograph Memory, Imagination, Justice: Intersections of Law and Literature (Ashgate 2009), as well as a number of articles and book chapter contributions.

David has also previously presented on the topic of HIV and 'Criminalizing Contagion' as part of the ICJR seminar series for academic year 2013/14.

To find out more about his most publication click here .


Sexual desire, and the possible dangers associated with its more extreme manifestations, provokes strong, albeit often contradictory reactions. Such reactions are a well-known stimulant of creative, juridical and scholarly activity, and the texts of law, literature and academic criticism respond to it in ways that suggest both of revulsion and fascination. But how are we to understand such responses, and what can they tell us about the relationship between law and its‘others’? Exploring these questions in the context of HIV transmission, on-street sexual exploitation and erotic asphyxiation, this book draws on psychoanalytic theory in order to understand the motivations behind legal, literary and cultural constructions of sexual offences, their perpetrators and victims. Its analysis of these constructions in a diverse range of sources - including appeal judgments in England & Wales and North America, criminal trials and their reporting, visual and linguistic cultures and both modern and ‘classical’ literature – will be of great interest to legal theorists and socio-legal scholars, as well as those with relevant concerns in the fields of literature and cultural studies.

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