Crime and Punishment in American Literature (26:352:518)                     Fall 2008

Professor H. Bruce Franklin                       Office: Hill 515
Phone: 973-353-5444                                 E-mail:
Office Hours: MON: 4:00-5:00; WED 2:30-3:30; and by appointment.
Home Page:

REQUIRED TEXTS: (Editions listed are those ordered at New Jersey Books. You may substitute except where noted.)

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Penguin.
Herman Melville, Billy Budd & The Piazza Tales . Barnes & Noble Classics (OK to substitute as long as text for Billy Budd, Sailor is the one edited by Hayford and Sealts.)
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle.  New American Library.
Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest. Vintage paperback.
Neal Stephenson, Zodiac. Bantam.
H. Bruce Franklin, Prison Writing in 20th-Century America. Penguin.
Tim O'Brien, In the Lake of the Woods. Penguin.
Donald Goines, Dopefiend. All America Distributors.
Walter Mosley, Little Scarlet. Vision.

Héctor Tobar. The Tattooed Soldier. Penguin.

[RECOMMENDED Any one of the following widely available books would be very helpful in understanding the prison system in America today:

Scott Christianson, With Liberty for Some. Northeastern University Press.
Marc Mauer, Race to Incarceratee.  New Press.
David Cole, No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System.

   New Press.
Elliott Currie, Crime and Punishment in America. Henry Holt.
Joy James, States of Confinement. Palgrave.
Christian Parenti, Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis. Verso.
Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison. Allyn & Bacon.
Daniel Burton Rose, Dan Pens, and Paul Wright, eds., The Celling of America: An Inside
    look at the U.S. Prison Industry. Common Courage Press.
Elihu Rosenblatt, ed., Criminal Injustice: Confronting the Prison Crisis. South End Press.] 

Assignments must be completed by the indicated dates:

September 8  Organization, description, and methodology of the seminar.   Video: "Maximum Security University."

September 15  Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (1845 edition).    Herman Melville, "Benito Cereno" (1855).

September 22  Herman Melville, "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street" (1853); Billy Budd, Sailor (1891).

September 29   Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906).


October 6  Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest (1929)

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

October 13    In Prison Writing in 20th-Century America:

Foreword by Tom Wicker
Editor's Introduction
  in From Plantation to Penitentiary
    Plantation Prison
        "Autobiography of an Imprisoned Peon" (1904)
    Songs of the Prison Plantation
        "Go Down Old Hannah"
        "Midnight Special"
        "Easy Rider"
  in The Early Modern American Prison
    Jack London "'Pinched': A Prison Experience" and "The Pen" (1907)

    Agnes Smedley "Cell Mates" (1920)
    Kate Richards O'Hare from Crime and Criminals (1921)
    Jim Tully  "A California Holiday" (1928)
    Ernest Booth  "Ladies in Durance Vile" (1931)

    Chester Himes "To What Red Hell?" (1934)
    Nelson Algren "El Presidente de Méjico" (1947)
    Robert Lowell  "Memories of West Street and Lepke" (1956)

in The Movement and the Prison
  Malcolm X         from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965)
  George Jackson     from Soledad Brother (1970)
  Iceberg Slim      from The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim (1971)
  Mshaka               "Formula for Attica Repeats" (1974)
  Piri Thomas          from Seven Long Times (1974)
  Jack Abbott          from In the Belly of the Beast (1981)
  Assata Shakur       from Assata (1987)
in The American Gulag Today
    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)
     Jimmy Santiago Baca  "Past Present" (1992)

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

 in The Literary Renaissance
   Malcolm Braly     from On the Yard (1967)
   Etheridge Knight  "The Warden Said to Me the Other Day" (1968)
                             "Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane"                                                           (1968)
                             "For Freckle-Faced Gerald" (1968)
    Paul Mariah     "Quarry/Rock: A Reality Poem in the Tradition of Genet" (1969)
                           "Always We Watch Them" (1970)
                          "Shakedown & More" (1971)
    Norma Stafford   "In Santa Cruz" (1972)
                              "The Gone One" (1973)
    William Wantling   "from Sestina to San Quentin" (1973)
                              "Poetry" (1973)   
                              "Who's Bitter?" (1973)
    Michael Hogan   "Spring" (1975)

                             "Confessions of a Jailhouse Lawyer" (1975)
    Carolyn Baxter   "Lower Court" (1979)
                            "35 Years a Correctional Officer" (1979)
                            "On Being Counted" (1979)
    Jimmy Santiago Baca  "The New Warden" (1979)
                                    "The County Jail" (1979)
                                    "I Applied for the Board" (1982)
    Jackie Ruzas      "Easy To Kill" (1975)
                            "The Bus Ride" (1983)   
    Edward Bunker   from Little Boy Blue (1981)
    Nathan C. Heard   from House of Slammers (1983)
    Charles Culhane   "Of Cold Places" (1984)
                              "Autumn Yard" (1985)
                              "First Day of Hanukkah" (1986)
    Patricia McConnel   "Sing Soft, Sing Loud" (1989)   
    Kim Wozencraft       from Notes from the Country Club (1993)
    Jerome Washington "Diamond Bob" (1994)
                                 "The Blues Merchant" (1994)   
                                 "Nobody's Hoss" (1994)
                                 "Barracuda and Sheryl" (1994)
                                 "Shing-a-Ling and China" (1994)
     Kathy Boudin     "Our Skirt" (1997)
                             "The Call" (1997)


Donald Goines, Dopefiend (1971)


October 27  Walter Mosley, Little Scarlet (2004)


November 3  Neal Stephenson, Zodiac (1988)

November 10  Tim O'Brien, In the Lake of the Woods (1994)

November 17  Héctor Tobar, The Tattooed Soldier (1998)

November 24   Presentations by members of the seminar.

December 1     Presentations by members of the seminar.

December 8      Presentations by members of the seminar.

December 8     Final day for submission of original essay (minimum length 3,500 words). Extensions without penalty will be granted only for medical or other emergencies.

The essay must be an original work relating to one or more of the issues or works explored in the seminar. It should have something significant to communicate, and it should be worth its readers' time. Please note that after November 17, there is no assigned reading. This allows three weeks to spend exclusively on your essay, which is your only major project for the course. Your aim should be to produce a work of potentially publishable quality in both form and content.

The physical appearance of your work should be attractive and professional looking. The print should be very black and pleasant to read. Citations and format should follow either the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or The Chicago Manual of Style.

Presentations by Members of the Seminar

During the last three meetings, each member of the seminar will lead a discussion relevant to his or her essay. One week before your presentation, you should supply all other members of the seminar with written materials to read in preparation. These materials might be anything from notes and problems to a rough draft (or even the finished essay). The easiest way to provide these materials is by e-mail through the list we’ll set up. When leading this discussion, you will be entirely in charge of the seminar. You may use the time to pose problems you have encountered in developing your essay, to explore the subject of your essay more deeply, to present a brief version of your essay, or whatever you think most valuable. Everybody needs to prepare for each discussion by studying the appropriate materials before that seminar meets.

Tests and Responsibility to Complete the Readings on Time

The success of the seminar depends on each member reading each assigned text on time and then contributing to our discussion on a level to be expected of a graduate student.  If it becomes apparent that some people are not adequately prepared, it may be necessary to resort to brief tests on the readings the date they are due.  Let’s try to avoid that.  There will be no midterm or final examination.