Slavic R5B, Section 2: Session C (June 19-August 11): True Crime Revisited: Stories of Deviance

TuWTh 12-2, 283 Dwinelle. Instructor: Matthew Kendall.

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the first half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Over only a few years, true crime narratives have infiltrated popular television and podcasts. But these new stories of crime have older roots that often go overlooked: this course will ask how novels and films from the 19th and 20th centuries represented the intersection of law and morality to give new perspectives on criminal activity. Many have argued that the treatment of crime shows us more about how a society organizes itself than the severity of the crime itself – our course will ask how various artistic forms treat misdeeds.

Many of the works on our syllabus are inspired by true stories, and we will navigate the waters of adaptation and the influence of historical reality on fictional narratives throughout our course. We will also trace the rise of early true crime documentary from fictional narratives that were fascinated with deviance.

The central goal of this course is to develop the skills necessary for writing clear, persuasive, and well-informed papers. Secondly, we aim to cultivate basic and effective research skills, and to learn how resources like Berkeley’s library help us implement these skills. One of Berkeley’s librarians will visit our class and show us how to make use of the library’s resources. Because our course is an accelerated summer session, students should expect to read over 60 pages per week, and to attend every class meeting – attendance is crucial to success. Class sessions are 2 hours each, and students are expected to participate actively during discussion.

Featured Texts:
E.A. Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amantillado”
Dostoevsky, “A Meek One”
Tolstoy, “The Kreutzer Sonata”
Babel’, “Salt”
Capote, In Cold Blood 

Elevator to the Gallows, dir. Louis Malle
Psycho, dir. Alfred Hitchock
Chinatown, dir. Roman Polanski
The Thin Blue Line, dir. Errol Morris

Prerequisite:  Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement or its equivalent.  Students may not enroll nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.