Crime and Criminology in the Eye of the Novelist: Trends in Nineteenth Century Literature

13 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2012

See all articles by Elizabeth Burney

Elizabeth Burney

University of Cambridge - Institute of Criminology

Date Written: May 2012

Abstract

Many leading novelists of the 19th Century were deeply concerned with crime and its causes, reflecting concerns of the period and often raising ideas which find resonance with modern criminological theories. The structural causes of crime; the negative effect of ill‐treatment and harsh punishment; labelling theory; the possibility of redemption and desistance; the ingrained flaws in individual characters which result in a propensity to crime and deviance, enhanced by bad influences and criminogenic environments; the social pressures (labelled ‘strain theory’ by criminologists) which drive outsiders to gain wealth and status by illegitimate means – all these can be found in fiction of the period. This article takes examples from English, French and Russian literature to illustrate these themes. The article also links fiction to the development of perceptions about crime and criminals as the century progressed.

Keywords: fiction, paradigms, labelling, desistance, anomie, criminal propensity

Suggested Citation

Burney, Elizabeth, Crime and Criminology in the Eye of the Novelist: Trends in Nineteenth Century Literature (May 2012). The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, Vol. 51, Issue 2, pp. 160-172, 2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2034665 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2311.2011.00703.x

Elizabeth Burney (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Institute of Criminology

7 West Road
Cambridge, England
United Kingdom

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