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The University of Southampton

LAWS3098 Crime in Law, Literature and Culture

Module Overview

This is an interdisciplinary module studying issues relating to crime, by way of an exploration and critical analysis of intersections between law, literature and culture. Understanding the way that human behaviours are regulated and understood within the criminal justice system demands an interdisciplinary approach to legal studies. There is a complex set of cultural norms that determine what we consider acceptable and unacceptable in the physical relations between individuals, and what we think of as appropriate and inappropriate ways for others to interfere in those relations. These norms are produced and coded in our laws, literature, as well as in culture more broadly. The aim of the module is to give you a thorough understanding of these ideas, setting law within its wider context. You will be encouraged to apply analytical techniques including psychoanalysis, feminism and ideas relating to race and class to a range of concerns about sexual and violent behaviours and their impacts. The module will focus on critical perspectives on violent and sexual transgressions, considering how legal, literary and cultural responses to these intersect.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • criminal legal rules both in England & Wales and other jurisdictions on violence and sex;
  • literary, cultural and critical themes as they apply to criminal law.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • critically analyse a broad range of texts including legislation, case law, fiction and drama, and connections between them;
  • explain what literary and cultural depictions of themes such as justice, desert, power and inequality bring to bear on law and policy;
  • form your own independent view on relevant law and policy in the light of a range of critical perspectives;
  • evaluate critically the specific criminal law and policies studied comment on and evaluate arguments put forward by others;
  • interpret, analyse and critically comment upon the decisions and reasoning in criminal case law.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • read texts 'critically', that is to say, to understand the subtext of a piece of writing, whether in a legal, literary or some other context;
  • understand the character and use of 'principles': their interpretation, arguments surrounding them, their effects and wider impacts;
  • critically analyse texts and contexts in such a way that will help to broaden your analytical skills more form your own independent view of relevant law, policy and critique;
  • conduct research and better organise and manage your time and personal (intellectual) resources.


The themes studied on this module include: consent, rape and rape 'myths', victim-blaming, sadomasochism, sexually transmitted infections, metaphors of sexuality and violence. These are considered in the light of a number of critical perspectives including liberalism, feminism, psychoanalysis, post-colonialism, language analysis. In examining the above themes, legal texts studied include: statutes such as the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Offences Against the Person Act 1861, as well as legal cases (mainly English) on crimes of violence and sex. Non-legal texts discussed alongside the legal ones include films, visual arts, and modern and classical literature.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching will be by ten 2-hour seminars across a single semester (20 hours total). As part of the learning activities you are expected to prepare for the individual seminars to the appropriate level as instructed by the module coordinator. You are expected to prepare and deliver a group presentation. Preparation for and participation in weekly seminars will develop: - Knowledge and understanding of relevant law, literature and critical perspectives; - Your ability to evaluate relevant case law, literature and critical perspectives to assess the underlying concerns about norms; - Effectiveness in working both individually and also in a group towards a common end.

Completion of assessment task50
Wider reading or practice40
Preparation for scheduled sessions40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Adams, C. J. (2010). The Sexual Politics of Meat. 

Gurnham, D (2014). Memory, Imagination, Justice: intersection of law and literature. 

Gurnham, D (2014). Crime, Desire and Law's Unconscious: Law, Literature and Culture. 

Weait, M (2007). Intimacy and Responsibility: the criminalization of HIV transmission. 

Hunter, R., McGlynn, C. and Rackley, E. (2010). Feminist Judgments. 

Miller W.I (2006). Eye for an Eye. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assessment 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assessment 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase the mandatory/additional reading text as appropriate.

The library has sufficient stocks of the key textbook as an e-book. The online resources for journal articles and case-law that the library holds is also sufficient for the module which means you will not need to purchase them.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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