Literature and Criminal Justice in the Twentieth Century
From true-crime books to courtroom dramas to sprawling television franchises, police investigations and trials are everywhere in popular culture. How did the workings of the criminal justice system become such a dominant theme in twentieth-century literature? How do police procedurals help us understand the way our government works? How are criminal characters imagined and diagnosed in the era of modern psychology? Do literary representations of crime and punishment constitute an “unfair trial”—or can they be more fair than their real-world legal counterparts? To answer these questions and others, we’ll read texts ranging from Richard Wright’s Native Son, to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, to David Simon’s The Wire. Students interested in pursuing projects on detective fiction, documentary writing, ethics and social justice, and TV will find this course a useful stepping-stone to their later work.