Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Alan Nadel


Law and literature share a foundation in narrative. The literary turn in legal scholarship recognizes that the law itself is a form of narrative, one that simultaneously reflects socio-cultural norms and creates social and political regulations with a complex matrix of power. Cultural narratives from the 1950s to the mid-1970s pertaining to reproductive politics, domesticity, and national identity both produce and are productive of legal rulings that govern and restrict private acts of sexuality and speech. The Supreme Court used cases concerning sex and reproduction to enumerate, explicate, and complicate the right to privacy, which appears nowhere in the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights yet formed perhaps the most crucial legal issue of the second half of the twentieth century. But with the Court’s continuous “refinement” and clarification of the right to privacy, the Court has demonstrated how privacy is a Lyotardian differend which, in dividing the inside from the outside, dismantles the logic of both through deconstruction of the margin. Law-determining rulings protecting this right demonstrate a logical impossibility: the Court has made privacy a “right” in such a way that the conditions for exercising it are subject to state surveillance. To be a subject of the law is to relinquish privacy, and privacy requires that the individual subject him/herself to the law by placing the right to privacy within the public domain. Rules-governed practices are entangled in ways both inextricable and unresolvable with notions of privacy. Legal narratives of the right to privacy, therefore, provide a genealogy of failed supplementation, consistent with an array of cultural narratives reflected in contemporaneous literature, film, drama, and political discourse. The Supreme Court’s continual “refinements” of privacy expose the tenuousness of the authority upon which it is based, with the female body positioned as the site of contradiction upon which narratives of domesticity, sexuality, and subjectivity are made legible.

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