Monday 21 July 2014

ENGL 30161: Crime and the Law in 18th- & 19th-Century Literature

ENGL 30161: Crime and the Law in 18th- & 19th-Century Literature

Dr. Hal Gladfelder, Semester 1, 2014-15

Preparatory Reading List


Description: This course explores the cultural and ideological resonances of the diverse representations of the criminal and the detective in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century England. Why is the history of the novel so bound up with figures of criminality and social transgression? And what are the implications of the popularity of novels and related forms that focused on the actions and speech of the outlaw poor, upstart servants, and female adventurers? We shall examine some of the ways in which works of art both reflected and shaped cultural attitudes—so that not only specific acts, but kinds of personality, even entire social groups, came to be defined as criminal. We shall consider the representation of gender and social class, the ideological implications (radical or reactionary) of fictional texts, and the use of such narrative strategies as first-person narration and stories within stories to shape the reader’s response. These works, from the fictional autobiography of Moll Flanders to the sensation novels of Collins and the terrorist fiction of Conrad, aimed both to entertain a mass (urban) audience and to comment on contemporary institutions of criminal justice—in particular, the new police and detective forces.  Their representations of extreme, violent, and bizarre behavior also reflected growing fascination with the field of abnormal psychology. 


Primary Texts: Please read as many of these as you can before classes begin in October. Texts are listed in the order in which we will discuss them. A course handbook will also be available on Blackboard the first week of the semester. Editions below are recommended.


Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders, ed. G. A. Starr and Linda Bree (Oxford World’s Classics)

John Gay, The Beggar’s Opera and Polly , ed. Hal Gladfelder (Oxford World’s Classics)

William Godwin, Caleb Williams, ed. Pamela Clemit (Oxford World’s Classics)

Thomas De Quincey, On Murder, ed. Robert Morrison (Oxford World’s Classics)

Edgar Allen Poe, Selected Tales, ed. David Van Leer (Oxford World’s Classics)

Wilkie Collins, The Law and the Lady, ed. Jenny Bourne Taylor (Oxford World Classics)

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles, ed. W. W. Robson (Oxford World’s Classics)

Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, ed. John Lyon (Oxford World’s Classics)



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