Criminal Women in Early Modern Literature

Module code: EN3142

Crime and criminals prompted some of the most innovative and influential literature of the early modern period. This module explores the fascination that criminal women held for authors and readers of the seventeenth and early eighteenth century. How did authors combine fact and fiction in representing thieves, murderers, and pirates? What factors shaped the depiction of women in literature on crime? How was literature about crime marketed to early modern readers?

To investigate these questions, we will look at representations of female and male criminals in pamphlets, plays, and novels. Through visiting Leicester's Special Collections of rare books, making use of the Early English Books Online database, and modern editions, we will explore how Renaissance readers encountered criminal literature. Formative presentations will help with both essay work and employability skills. The texts we will cover include Middleton and Dekker's comedy The Roaring Girl (1611), Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders (1722), and The General History of the Most Notorious Pirates (1724).

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