ENG 5865: Crime and Celebrity
MW 2-3:15 p.m.
Dr. Jennifer Wilson: email@example.com
During fall 2023 semester, we will learn about the lives of traitors, thieves, highwaymen, crime bosses, escape artists, prison turnkeys, pirates, and other underworld figures that so fascinated the reading public of the long eighteenth century. At a time when "The Bloody Code" expanded the number of capital offenses, these criminals ran great risks, and their exploits inspired a flood of accounts across media forms. Critic Margarette Lincoln situates the growing interest in criminal lives in "events of the seventeenth century [that] had tarnished the reputation of the elite in England. In recent memory, many self-serving people had switched political and even religious allegiances, often several times, in the hope of advancement." This skepticism about the worthiness of the "Great" within English society was one among a host of factors that made the criminal counter-culture so appealing to readers.
Texts likely to be included on our syllabus: broadside ballads, Old Bailey criminal court proceedings, Defoe's Moll Flanders, Gay's The Beggar's Opera, Austen's Lady Susan, along with other selections.