Murderers, thieves, prostitutes, and drug addicts. Crimes of corruption, homosexuality, political persuasion, and creative expression. How are these depicted in literature, and why are they of interest to us as readers? Works of literature in which the protagonists are criminals and social deviants, or those who act outside of social norms, are of interest not because they represent these characters as likeable or unlikable, good or bad. These works are of interest for what they tell us about the society and times in which the criminal-heroes (or anti-heroes) exist. How do, for example, the conditions of modern life push individuals to live within the fringes of society? And how do criminals and deviants, in turn, support mainstream culture by operating within the social margins? What are the psychological limits and societal restraints that these characters transgress? And how, through acts of transgression, are the very notions of criminality and deviance transformed?
Primary course readings will include The Last Days of Socrates by Plato, The House of the Dead by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, De Profundis by Oscar Wilde, Germinal by Emile Zola, Querelle by Jean Genet, Junky by William Burroughs, and Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan.
Students will be evaluated on attendance, class participation, the presentation of group work, and brief writing assignments.