English R1A

Early American Literature of Crime and Punishment

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
16 Fall 2010 Goodwin, Peter
Goodwin, Peter
MWF 12-1 385 LeConte

Other Readings and Media

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (selections); Cotton Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World (selections on the Salem witch trials); Michael Wigglesworth, "Day of Doom"; Jonathan Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God"; Nat Turner, Confessions; Edgar Allan Poe, selected tales; Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience; Nathaniel Hawthorne, selected tales; Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; David Walker, Appeal; Rebecca Harding Davis, Life in the Iron Mills; Herman Melville, Billy Budd; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (selections); Myra C. Glenn, Campaigns against Corporal Punishment: Prisoners, Sailors, Women, and Children in Antebellum America (selections); Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection (selections).


In this course we will examine the role of crime, moral transgression, exposure, and punishment in the creation of U.S. American identity. If in public rituals of accusation, trial, confession, and punishment, the state simultaneously affirms and overpowers the agency of the accused, then the criminal might be viewed as both the exemplar and the antithesis of the American subject. But how do criminal acts and their punishments operate differently on different types of "subjects"? How, for example, is the shipboard flogging of a sailor like and unlike the plantation flogging of a pregnant slave—and who is the subject being interpellated in these different "scenes of subjection"?

The primary aim of this course is to develop your expertise in writing persuasively, clearly, and precisely about literature. With that in mind, the readings are chosen to help you formulate your own arguments about crime and punishment and their representation in American literature. You will learn how to construct strong sentences and paragraphs, develop thesis statements, organize textual evidence, and make forceful interpretive arguments—essential skills for all types of college and professional writing.

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