Narratives of Female Criminality

Jess Issacharoff
Duke University
Discipline(s): EnglishMedia StudiesAmerican Studies
Syllabus Last Updated: 
February, 2017

This course will examine common constructions of the female criminal in popular culture, using examples from literature, film and court cases that have captured the public imagination. We will read fiction by Toni Morrison and Oscar Wilde. We will watch films and TV shows such as Orange is the New Black, Double Indemnity, and Serial Mom. We will also read and watch coverage of sensational cases such as the murder trials of Casey Anthony and Lizzy Borden. This course will help students understand legal and political narratives in the US and their historical underpinnings. We will pay particular attention to how gender, race, class, and sexuality shape these narratives. We will be situating the tropes and narratives of female criminality in their cultural and historical contexts and questioning both our assumptions regarding the women we read about as well as the ways they are situated in relation to the state and each other.