The Tutorial is Grinnell’s introduction to college-level skills, and it establishes a pre-major advising relationship between each student and the professor.  The course is in many ways the anchor of our “individually advised curriculum.”  This is a new one for me.  Suggestions welcome!


Booked: Crime and Punishment in Literature

In this Tutorial, we will study literary and theoretical texts that address a fundamental question: what does it mean for one human to punish another?  The course’s readings will come from many periods, ranging from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Memento, the trial of Oscar Wilde to The Shawshank Redemption. These readings will prompt us to discuss issues such as the nature of revenge; the challenges that differences of race, gender, and sexuality pose to ideals of justice; and theories of imprisonment from the French Revolution to the present. Throughout the semester, we will focus on the process of crafting analytical papers.  To that end, we will spend a number of class sessions in a workshop format, which will allow the class to participate in a collaborative editorial process.  We will also work together to develop skills of critical reading, productive discussion, textual analysis, revision, and research. 


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Josh Tetenbaum · May 28, 2012 at 3:46 pm

I took a seminar through the National Endowment for the Humanities on a really similar subject last summer (the seminar was called “Politics, Punishment, and Culture” and was at Amherst College). We covered Beloved by Toni Morrison, Billy Budd by Herman Melville, and Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt (among other things). Fascinating topic!

    Erik Simpson · May 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    Terrific, Josh. I’m especially intrigued by Billy Budd. I am starting to imagine doing different versions of this course–maybe an upper-level one concentrating on the nineteenth century. Thanks!

Alenka · May 29, 2012 at 6:53 pm

In my tenth grade world history class we read the Sunflower:

Then we had a really long, intense discussion about whether or not it was possible to grant forgiveness to a Nazi. I think there are editions with essays about forgiveness in the back and I actually don’t remember the text very well, but my teacher tried to make us have a very serious discussion that went beyond how we personally felt. Inherent in that is the question of “should a dying man be punished,” so you might find this interesting in relation to the course!

Erik Simpson · May 30, 2012 at 2:17 am

Thanks, Alenka. I didn’t know about this. It reminds me also of the question of punishing people many decades after a crime is committed. Stephen Dedalus would remind us to wonder when or whether you end up punishing a different person.

millerel1 · June 3, 2012 at 1:00 am

This sounds like a great class; I wish I was still at Grinnell to take it! Will there be any material in the curriculum on 20th and 21st century approaches to restorative justice? South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission is a really fascinating look at restorative justice as a national approach instead of a case-by-case basis. I can’t wait to see the reading list!

Erik Simpson · June 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Beth, I haven’t thought of doing exactly that–not that I am uninterested, but I organize the readings primarily through literary texts, and none of what I’ve had in mind lines up with that issue exactly. But I’m open to suggestions, which I’ll keep on file for future variants of the course even if I don’t use them this time.

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