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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2004

E 314J • Literature and Criminal Justice

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
31960 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
GSB 2.122

Course Description

This substantial writing component (SWC) course for non-English majors focuses on the twinned themes of crime and punishment as seen through 20th century literature and film. As we explore these texts, questions that you should be thinking about include: How is “crime” defined? What are the causes of crime? Who is responsible for criminal activity? Why is a criminal confession so important? What are the rationales for punishment? How does punishment measure against the need for human dignity? What roles do culture, class, and gender play in crime and punishment? What are the motivations to make art out of these subjects?

Putting aside the social implications of widespread imprisonment as the solution to our nation’s problems, we must at least acknowledge that prison literature is one of the most meaningful, vivid, and rich bodies of literature to arise in recent years. Malcolm X declared, “Prison enabled me to study far more intensively than I would have if my life had gone differently and I had attended some college… Where else but in prison could I have attacked my ignorance by being able to study intensely sometimes as much as fifteen hours a day?”

Reading literature should be an enriching and enjoyable experience, but I also hope that you will come away from this course with a general knowledge of basic theories of criminal justice as they play out in the literature we read and the films we watch. I also expect that you will sharpen your abilities to read analytically, to use evidence to form and communicate your ideas, and to communicate those ideas in a direct and effective written manner.

Grading Policy

Three 2-page essays 30%
One final 8-page minimum course paper, with required proposal and rough draft 30%
Reading journal 30%
Participation, homework, quizzes 10%


Bell Gale Chevigny, Doing Time: 25 Years of Prison Writing
Ted Conover, Newjack
H. Bruce Franklin, Prison Writing in 20th-Century America
John Wideman, Brothers and Keepers
Course Reader: selections from Angela Davis, Michel Foucault, Beth Richie, Leonard Peltier, and others

The Shawshank Redemption; White Oleander; Monster; Slam


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