Crime and Punishment in American Literature (352:351)            Fall 2013


Professor H. Bruce Franklin Office: Hill 515. Phone: 353-5444. Office hours: Mon. 3:50-5:00; Wed. 2:30-3:30; and by appointment. E-mail:   Home page:

Teaching Assistant: Steve McNulty.  Office hours: Mon. 1:00-2:15; Wed. 11:30-12:50.  E-mail:


This is a 300 level interdisciplinary course, designed for students interested in American literature and/or issues of crime and punishment.   No prior knowledge of the subject or the literature is expected, but you will be required to do lots of reading and to engage with some difficult questions that may challenge your assumptions about crime and punishment.  If you are mainly looking for an easy way to satisfy a general education requirement, please take a different course.


REQUIRED TEXTS: (Editions listed are those ordered at New Jersey Books and Bradley Hall. You may substitute.)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Penguin.
Herman Melville, Billy Budd & The Piazza Tales. Barnes & Noble Classics.
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle. Signet Classic.
Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest. Vintage paperback.
Barry Eisler, Inside Out.  Ballantine.

H. Bruce Franklin, Prison Writing in 20th-Century America. Penguin.
Tim O'Brien, In the Lake of the Woods. Mariner Books.
Donald Goines, Dopefiend. Holloway House.
Héctor Tobar. The Tattooed Soldier. Penguin.



Reading assignments must be completed no later than the indicated dates:


September 4   Introduction to the course.


September 9  Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of an American Slave (1845).  (It’s not necessary to read the preface or other introductory material, just the Narrative itself [pp. 47-151 in the Penguin Classics edition].


September 11  Herman Melville, "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" (1853)


September 16  Herman Melville, "Benito Cereno" (1855).  It’s best NOT to read anything about “Benito Cereno” until AFTER you have finished the story.  Do note, however, that the story was published as the nation was plunging toward the Civil War, six years later.


September 18   In Prison Writing in 20th-Century America:

    Foreword by Tom Wicker
    Editor's Introduction
    Plantation Prison
    "Autobiography of an Imprisoned Peon" (1904)

September 23   Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906): Chapters 1-27


September 25    Finish The Jungle


September 30  In Prison Writing in 20th-Century America:

    Jack London "'Pinched': A Prison Experience" and "The Pen" (1907)
    Kate Richards O'Hare from Crime and Criminals (1921)

    Patricia McConnel "Sing Soft, Sing Loud" (1989)


October 2  Part of this class will be devoted to guidance on your writing project.

October 7  Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest (1929)


October 9  See the movie Chinatown (1974) any time before this class meeting. A copy will be available on the fourth floor of Dana Library and videos are widely available for rental.


October 14  In Prison Writing in 20th-Century America: 

    Malcolm X from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
    Etheridge Knight   "The Warden Said to Me the Other Day" (1968)
        "Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane" (1968)
    George Jackson from Soledad Brother (1970)
    Mshaka "Formula for Attica Repeats" (1974)

    Edward Bunker from Little Boy Blue (1981)

    Jack Abbott from In the Belly of the Beast (1981)


October 16  In Prison Writing in 20th-Century America:

     Nelson Algren "El Presidente de Méjico" (1947)


October 21  Donald Goines, Dopefiend (1971)


October  23  In Prison Writing in 20th-Century America:

Norma Stafford "In Santa Cruz" (1972)
        "The Gone One" (1973)

William Wantling  "from Sestina to San Quentin" (1973)
        "Poetry" (1973)
Carolyn Baxter "Lower Court" (1979)
        "35 Years a Correctional Officer" (1979)
Jerome Washington "Diamond Bob" (1994)
    "The Blues Merchant" (1994)
    "Nobody's Hoss" (1994)
    "Barracuda and Sheryl" (1994)
    "Shing-a-Ling and China" (1994)


Oct 28   In Prison Writing in 20th-Century America:

Jimmy Santiago Baca "The New Warden" (1979)
        "The County Jail" (1979)
         "Past Present" (1992)
Assata Shakur from Assata (1987)


October 30   Dannie Martin  "AIDS: The View from a Prison Cell" (1986)
    "A Prescription for Torture" (1990)
    "A Mount Everest of Time" (1990)

    Mumia Abu-Jamal "B-Block Days and Nightmares" (1990)
    "Skeleton Bay" (1993)
    "Already Out of the Game" (1994)


     Maximum Security University” Video shown in class.


November 4   Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech about Vietnam.  Both text and audio are available at


“Only the Beginning”  Video shown in class.


November 6   Tim O'Brien, In the Lake of the Woods (1994): Chapters 1-9


November 11 Finish In the Lake of the Woods


November 13  Héctor Tobar, The Tattooed Soldier (1998): Chapters 1-9


November 18  Finish The Tattooed Soldier 


November 20  This class will explore relations between the prison and American music from slavery to the present.  Read the following:


                 In Prison Writing in 20th-Century America:

       Songs of the Prison Plantation
        "Go Down Old Hannah"
        "Midnight Special"
        "Easy Rider"

       Etheridge Knight,  "Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the

Criminal Insane" (1968)


       Po’ Laz’rus” (available through Blackboard)


If you have any songs that you think are especially relevant, please bring them to class on disc or flash drive. 


November 25  Part of this class will be devoted to your writing projects.


November 27 No class (Friday class schedule)


December 2  Final day for submission of original short story or essay (minimum length 2,500 words).  Do not leave the writing or printing of this project for the last minute.  A hard copy is due in class.  You must also submit a digitized copy, either on a disk or by e-mail, within 24 hours of this class. 


December 4  Barry Eisler, Inside Out (2010):  Chapters 1-13


December  9 Finish Inside Out


December 11   This class will be devoted to reviewing for the final.


Instructions for Writing Project


The essay or short story you are writing for this course is an opportunity for an original, valuable achievement. Think of it as something you are preparing for publication. That is, you are addressing an audience of reasonably intelligent strangers whom you must entice to read your work and who should be convinced after they have read it that it was well worth their time. Most questions about form and content can be answered easily if you put yourself in your readers' shoes. The essay or story should also contribute to our understanding of some aspect of the subject matter of the course. 


The minimum length is 2,500 words. If you are having difficulty reaching this length, you can be sure there is some problem in your conception and development of your essay or story.


On proper use and acknowledgement of sources, be sure you have a copy of the Rutgers Policy on Academic Integrity and are familiar with its contents.  The penalty for submitting a purchased or plagiarized paper is suspension from the University.


The physical appearance of your work should be attractive and professional looking. It should be double-spaced throughout. There is no adequate excuse for frequent errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar. So allow yourself ample time for proofreading.  Extensions without penalty will be granted only for medical or other emergencies.


Expectations, Requirements, and Grades


We will be dealing with some highly controversial subjects.  So for the course to be successful, discussion is crucial and we ought to have some hot and heavy arguments.     Please be sure to bring to class the texts that we are studying.


Almost all the readings for this course were intended for a general audience, so the expectation is that everybody should be prepared to discuss them on the dates that they are due.  There will be frequent brief tests on the readings, usually on the day they are due. These are not meant to be ambushes but aids for reading and for our discussion.


The class meets on all scheduled days, whether or not an assignment is indicated on the syllabus.  Attendance is important.


In determining the grade for the course, approximately equal weight will be given to (1) the brief tests, (2) the short story or essay, and (3) the final examination. In addition, each student's work will be evaluated on overall performance, with special attention given to participation in discussion and to the level of knowledge and understanding ultimately reached.