English R1B

Reading & Composition: Victorian Crime

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
16 Spring 2012 Baldwin, Ruth
TTh 8-9:30 225 Wheeler

Book List

Ainsworth, William Harrison: Jack Sheppard; Braddon, Mary Elizabeth: Lady Audley's Secret; Collins, Wilkie: The Moonstone; Stevenson, Robert Louis: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Stoker, Bram: Dracula; Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray;

Recommended: Hacker, Diana: Rules for Writers, 6th Ed.


We like to describe the Victorians the way we think about our great-great aunts—well-meaning and sweet, but also uptight, prudish, and stodgy.  But just because polite Victorian society didn’t talk about sex, drugs, and crime doesn’t mean that they didn’t think or read about them.  Sensation novels (the precursors to our trashy romances) and mystery novels were first invented by the supposedly staid, curmudgeonly pens of Victorian writers.  In this class, we’ll discuss topics of equal interest to the Victorians and to us, including the various imagined sources of criminal behavior, the suppression and punishment of criminality, and problems of race and national identity.  The texts we’ll read approach questions of crime, deviance, detection, and discipline from a variety of viewpoints and will serve as a jumping-off point for your research on crime, criminal law, and justice in the Victorian novel. 

Our time will be structured around a combination of small group and full class discussions, which will help you to develop your skills as a reader, researcher, writer, and critic. We will review essay writing and research strategies at frequent intervals in the class (see syllabus for schedule), along with additional discussions of more technical aspects of the writing process as needed.  Our class time will often take the form of workshops and peer review sessions, so the presence of each student is vital to the success of our meetings.  The primary goal of the class will be to hone your skills as a critical reader, researcher, and writer. 

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