Dr Jan-Melissa Schramm, Trinity Hall



Biographical Information

I am University Reader in Literature and Law, and a Fellow at Trinity Hall.  Originally from Tasmania, I studied Arts/ Law at the Australian National University before being admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of Tasmania in 1992.  I worked briefly as a lawyer in private practice, where I dealt primarily with criminal cases, before coming to Cambridge on a scholarship to write my PhD on changing conceptions of testimony in the literature of the long nineteenth century.  I subsequently held a JRF and a College Teaching position in English before joining the Faculty.  As a consequence of my dual qualifications and my interest in interdisciplinary work, I am currently Deputy Director of CRASSH.

Research Interests

My field of expertise is the history of the English novel and the wider cultural relations of law and the humanities.  I work mainly on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century source material, with a particular interest in authors whose writings engage intensely with law and the rhetoric of empiricism (especially Henry Fielding, William Godwin, Charles Dickens, and George Eliot); literature and theology (especially ideas of atonement, reconciliation, sacrifice, and the role played by mercy and forgiveness in public life); legal history, the law of evidence and professional ethics; Victorian jurisprudence (ideas of equity and equitability; institutional reform; penal policy; the tension between the rule of law and the martial force of empire); literary representations of Chartism, Chartist poetry, and mid-Victorian socialist thought; theatre history, religious drama and censorship.

Work in Progress:

Whilst my first three books deal with the relationship between literature and domestic law, my new project, a two-book study with the umbrella title of ‘Narrative Experiments in the Rule of Law’, departs from the national framework and looks to the wider context of Empire to ask comparative questions about the ideology of English law. The first volume is entitled ‘The Rhetoric of Rights in Nineteenth-Century England’, and it seeks to challenge the standard stop-start narrative arc of rights history (which locates their invention in the late eighteenth-century and their renaissance in the twentieth) by recovering something of the lost history of rights discourse in the nineteenth century. The second volume is entitled ‘Canon and Critique: Charles Dickens in the Modern Literary Imagination’: it studies Victorian and modern novels diachronically in order to probe the role of literary culture in the formation of rights discourse.

Editorial Work:

I am Co-General Editor, with Professor Christopher Ricks, of the 11-volume edition of the Selected Works of James Fitzjames Stephen for Oxford University Press.  I am also on the Editorial Advisory Boards of the Nineteenth-Century Series for Anthem Press, and the Law, Culture, and Humanities monograph series for Edinburgh University Press.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

I have previously taught an optional seminar course entitled 'Victorian Literature and Public Discourse; or, a Literary History of Human Rights' for  the MPhil on Modern and Contemporary Literature.  In 2017-18, I will be convening a seminar course entitled 'Charles Dickens and the Modern Literary Imagination: Great Expectations and Postcolonial Critique'.  I regularly supervise MPhil and PhD dissertations on fiction of the long nineteenth century.

Selected Publications


  • Jan-Melissa Schramm, Censorship and the Representation of the Sacred in Nineteenth-Century England (Oxford University Press, forthcoming late 2018).
  • Jan-Melissa Schramm, Atonement and Self-Sacrifice in Nineteenth-Century Narrative (Cambridge University Press, 2012), xii + 289pp. 
  • Jan-Melissa Schramm, Testimony and Advocacy in Victorian Law, Literature, and Theology (Cambridge University Press, 2000), xvi +244pp. 

Edited Volumes:

  • Jan-Melissa Schramm and Alex Houen (eds.), Sacrifice and the Modern Literature of War (Oxford University Press, 2018).
  • Jan-Melissa Schramm, Yota Batsaki, and Subha Mukherji (eds.), Fictions of Knowledge: Fact, Evidence, Doubt (Macmillan, 2011).

Articles and Book Chapters:

  • ‘The “Enabling Power” of Censorship? Religious Drama, the Law, and the Provocations of Form in Nineteenth-Century England', in Angelika Zirker (ed.), Strategies of Ambiguity (forthcoming, Routledge, 2019).
  • '"Angels ... recognize our innocence": On Theology and Human Rights in the Fiction of the Brontes', in Alexandra Lewis (ed.), The Brontes and the Idea of the Human (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press, 2018).
  • 'Wrongs: Negligence, Neighbourliness, and the Duty of Care in Nineteenth-Century Narrative' in Ian Ward (ed.) The Cultural History of Law (Oxford: Hart Publishing), pp. 131-148.
  • '"A common and not a divided interest": Literature and the Labour of Representation in the Nineteenth Century', in Marcus Waithe and Claire White (eds.), The Labour of Literature in Britain and France, 1830-1930: Authorial Work Ethics (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2018), pp. 27-42.
  • 'The Crimean War and (Self-)Sacrifice in mid-Victorian Fiction', in Houen and Schramm (eds.), Sacrifice and the Modern Literature of War (Oxford University Press, 2018), pp. 34-48.
  • 'The Bible and the Realist Novel', in Mark Knight (ed.), A Companion to Literature and Religion (London: Routledge, 2016), pp. 263-273.
  • '"Let us carve him as a feast fit for the gods': Girard and Unjust Execution in Nineteenth-Century Narrative', in Pierpaolo Antonello and Heather Web (eds.), Mimesis, Desire, and the Novel: Rene Girard and Literary Criticism (Michigan State UP, 2015), pp. 161-173.
  • [with Simon Petch], 'Legal', in Herbert Tucker (ed.), A New Companion to Victorian Literature and Culture (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), pp. 156-171.
  • 'From Virtue to Goodness: Biblical Values in Victorian Literature', in Stephen Prickett (ed.), The Bible and the Arts (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013), pp. 493-506.
  • 'Wilde and Christ', in Kerry Powell and Peter Raby (eds.), Oscar Wilde in Context (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 253-60.
  • 'The Victorian Novel and the Law', in Lisa Rodensky (ed.), The Oxford Handbook to the Victorian Novel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), pp. 507-528.
  • 'George Eliot and the Law', in Amanda Anderson and Harry Shaw (eds.), A Companion to George Eliot (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 309-322.
  • 'On Goodness and Genre: Talking about Virtue in Law and Literature', in Fiona Smith and Michael Freeman (eds.), Law and Language (Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 151-163.
  • 'Dickens and the National Interest: On the Representation of Parties in Bleak House', Law and the Humanities (2012), vol. 6: 2, 219-244.
  • 'Towards a Poetics of (Wrongful) Accusation: Innocence and Working-Class Voice in mid-Victorian Fiction', in Batsaki, Mukherji, and Schramm (eds.), Fictions of Knowledge, cited above (2011), pp. 193-212. 
  • 'The Law' in Charles Dickens in Context, ed. Sally Ledger and Holly Furneaux (Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 310-17. 
  • 'Institutional Processes: Witnessing', The Cambridge Companion to Law and the Humanities, ed. Austin Sarat et al, (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 178-195.
  • 'Dickens and the Law' in The Companion to Charles Dickens, ed. David Paroissien, (Blackwells, 2008), pp. 277-293.
  • '"The Anatomy of a Barrister's Tongue": Rhetoric, Satire, and the Victorian Bar in England', Victorian Literature and Culture, vol.32.2, (2004), 285-303
  • 'Vicarious Villainy and the Burden of Narrative Guilt', The Devil Himself: Villainy in Detective Fiction and Film, ed. Stacey Gillis and Philippa Gates, (Greenwood Press, 2002), pp. 11-23.
  • 'Is Literature more Ethical than Law? James Fitzjames Stephen and Literary Responses to the Advent of Full Legal Representation for Felons', in Law and Literature, ed. Michael Freeman and Andrew Lewis, (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 417-35.