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WRIT 118.501 | Understanding True Crime Narratives


WRIT 118.501 | Understanding True Crime Narratives

David Jones | Fall 2013 | Sept 3 - Nov 10 | MWF 10:00-10:50 AM 


For this section of Writing 118, we will pay special attention to the way that crime incidents are constructed rhetorically, especially crime stories that become significant in our collective historical and public memories through an information cycle. We will use multiple sources (historical, popular, academic, electronic, narrative) to explore the information cycle and human significance of these tragic incidents.

The academic fields of history, journalism, critical race studies, sociology, and literary studies have sometimes identified a particular significance in individual crime incidents. The way these individual incidents are narrated, rhetorically framed, and made into broader human stories tells a great deal about the functioning of our media, the content of our ethical character, and the just (or not so just) operation of our society.

Ultimately, the aim of our course is to enhance our skills at thinking critically about crime incidents and how they are framed, enabling us to respond to these incidents in a way that nurtures the "character and health" of our community (borrowing from Michael J. Hogan). Certainly it is complex to determine what the best response should be to crime incidents that disturb, trouble, and even disgust us, incidents that may produce deep anxiety, anger, and sadness. However, it is also the case that stories of crime provide many of us with entertainment and superficial distraction. How do we deal with a social world where crime stories simultaneously function as entertainment, as human stories that invite us to reflect on ethical dilemmas, and as real situations that many of us face in everyday life? I hope that our course gives us some tools for productively working with these big questions in our own everyday lives.

This is an Honors Program Elective Course.