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This paper examines Henry Fielding’s novel Amelia (1751) as a prescient literary contemplation of the temporality of consent. The novel’s preoccupation with impulsive consent and fluctuations of intention is set against a background of shifting legal standards concerning the imperishability of consent. Characters feel bound by norms discouraging the retraction of consent. Amelia’s private sexual episodes prepare the reader to deliberate over crises of accountability in non-sexual public settings (the criminal justice system, the gambling den, Vauxhall, and elsewhere). Modern-day legislation and university sexual codes enshrining the stepwise gauging of consent derive from such early reappraisals of the duration of consent.


2013 Law and Humanities Junior Scholar Workshop selection.

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