E 314J • Literature and Criminal Justice
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
This course 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 nations 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 your ideas, and to communicate those ideas in a direct and effective written manner.
Four short 2-page essays 40%
One final 6-page minimum course paper, with required proposal and rough draft 25%
Reading journal 25%
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, Leonard Peltier, and others
Films: The Shawshank Redemption, White Oleander, Monster, Slam