Dec 02, 2023  
Catalogue 2021-2022 
Catalogue 2021-2022 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

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ENGL 377 - True Crime and the American Novel

0.5 unit(s)
(Same as AMST 377 ) “True Crime” (.5) explores the relationship between journalism, literature, film, and other media. In the 19th century, Literary naturalism, a sub-genre of realism, eschewed literary devices and stylistic preciosity, instead describing characters and events in the direct, unembellished prose of the newspaper account. From Charles Chesnutt’s The Marrow of Tradition (inspired by the Wilmington NC race riot of 1898) to Frank Norris’s McTeague (inspired by the murder of a charwoman) to Theodore Dreiser’s The Financier (inspired by Charles Yerkes financial chicanery) to Richard Wright’s Native Son (inspired by newspaper accounts of a murder) the American novel has relied on ‘real events’ to generate ideas for character and plots. Students may conduct research into the events inspiring these and other novels for the course and present their findings to the group. Alternately, students may choose a crime from any period (be it Lizzy Borden’s alleged murder of her parents, Jack the Ripper’s murders, serial killers, political assassinations, the murder of Emmett Till) and locate and compare multiple representations of the event (whether in novels, plays, movies, comics, newspapers, trials, forensic science). In most instances, representations highlight historical, class, and racial tensions (or obliviousness) over the subject and even who has a right to speak for the victim. (The recent controversy over the Whitney museum’s exhibition of Dana Schutz’s depiction of the open casket funeral of Emmett Till is a good example. Schutz is a white artist and her detractors objected to her appropriation of an iconic black figure and potentially profiting from her work.)  Students are not limited to 19th-century crimes or media for their final projects. Film noir offers a rich cache of images and tropes for understanding the allure of the femme fatale and the lethality of the male gaze in contemporary film and even music videos. Students may undertake original research or complete a creative project for this intensive. Collaborations among students are encouraged. Wendy Graham.

Prerequisite(s): For juniors and seniors and with permission of the instructor.

Second six-week course.

Not offered in 2021/22.

Course Format: INT

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