Janis Breckenridge, Coordinator (Spanish); Dalia Corkrum (Penrose Library); Sarah Hurlburt (FLL-French); Chris Leise (English); Justin Lincoln (Studio Art); Katrina Roberts (English); and Elyse Semerdjian (History).     Report - Breckenridge Workshop
The Art of Storytelling and the Teaching of Graphic Texts
Graphic novels—hybrid literary and visual texts engaging diverse themes of historical, social and aesthetic import—readily lend themselves to cross-disciplinary study. This workshop aims to study a cross-cultural set of innovative and socially committed graphic texts.

This workshop is composed of six faculty members representing five distinct departments (Spanish, Foreign Languages and Literatures, English, Studio Art, and History) together with Dalia Corkrum, College Librarian. We propose to engage in a cross-disciplinary study of contemporary graphic novels that address such topics as self-consciously representing the Holocaust in comic format, employing techniques of the mystery novel to trace racial identity in America in the 1930s, drawing on oral testimony to uncover genocide in the Middle East, rendering a graphic exposé of the uses and misuses of the creative arts, combining literary realism with comic art, and creating genre-bending illustrated poetry. Dalia will serve as a resource person throughout the workshop, providing information about the historical development of the graphic novel as a genre and its acceptance within literary, library and academic circles. The final session will focus specifically on pedagogical issues related to the successful presentation of graphic novels in the classroom.

The goals of this faculty workshop include becoming familiar with the rich and multicultural history of this hybrid literary/artistic form, engaging in close analysis of the many ways in which visual imagery and verbal text interact, and discussing cross-disciplinary approaches to teaching these complex texts. Following this workshop, participants intend to incorporate graphic novels and comic theory into their teaching, their portfolios, and/or their scholarship.

Mitch Clearfield, Coordinator (Philosophy); Pavel Blagov (Psychology); Keith Farrington (Sociology); Gilbert Mireles (Sociology); and Pete Parcells (Economics).
Theories of Crime and Punishment
While rough definitions of crime and punishment are easy enough to compose (crime is a certain kind of violation of the law; punishment is a certain kind of state-imposed hardship on the perpetrator of a crime), significant academic debates exist about nearly every issue surrounding those rough definitions: What is the nature and origin of the distinction between criminal and non-criminal behavior? Why do people commit crimes? How should the state view criminals, crimes, and the causes of crimes? What are the effects of state punishment? What are, and what should be, its purpose(s)?

These questions are addressed in different but overlapping ways by the disciplines represented in this proposal:

  • Psychology: How do psychologists explain the etiology and maintenance of antisocial behavior, particularly the kind of chronic, versatile, and highly destructive criminal behavior associated with antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy? How do psychologists define “punishment,” and why do they generally consider it to be ineffective? How do psychologists in correctional settings evaluate the rehabilitation and treatment needs of inmates? What are the (a) behavioral and (b) cognitive mechanisms of change that psychologists usually employ when designing programs for correction? What do mental health courts contribute to rehabilitation as an alternative to the “traditional” correctional system?

  • Sociology: Much like the field of Psychology, the discipline of Sociology is very concerned with the question of why exactly certain individuals, as well as certain groups and types of individuals, have higher propensities to violate criminal norms and thus participate in criminal behavior. It is also concerned with the related questions of how and why specific societies are led to punish or otherwise deal with these criminal actors in various ways, and how effective (or not) these various forms of societal reaction are (a) in punishing individuals for their indiscretions; (b) “curing” or otherwise preventing these individuals (and others who may be similarly motivated) from participating in similar actions in the future; and (c) maintaining acceptable levels of safety from crime in society. A particular theme to be pursued in this workshop is that of “marginality” as it relates to the differential labeling and systemic punishment of the members of our society – i.e., marginality by race and class, marginality by age status, marginality by gender, and marginality by mental health status. Economics: Economics is about incentives which are necessary when there are unlimited wants and limited resources. Punishment is one of the incentives used to provide those (all) with limited resources from fulfilling their desire for unlimited wants. In the larger context of crime and punishment, economists tend to focus on the economic impacts (and consequently the social impacts) resulting from a society’s rules and regulations (broadly defined). In simple terms, economists define all societal actions (crime and punishment) in the context of society (and individuals) trying to maximize benefits and minimizing costs. Understanding how economists view social and economic impacts and how these views explain the past, current, and future of the criminal justice system, is essential for all disciplines. Exploration of the economic perspective will demonstrate how there are not really different realities of crime and punishment across disciplines but only different (and perhaps overlapping) perspectives.
  • Philosophy: Philosophers focus on normative evaluations of the system of crime and punishment. Particular attention will be paid to concerns about goal-oriented justifications such as deterrence and rehabilitation that seem to underlie much work in the social sciences. Out of those concerns, versions of retributivism will be developed, which view punishment as deserved suffering for the free choice to do break the law. Those theories will propose alternative understandings of the nature of crime and criminal responsibility, and corresponding understandings of the nature of punishment as somehow undoing or compensating for crime.

For many years, these different disciplinary perspectives on crime and punishment have been brought into informal and haphazard contact through the meetings and other activities of the Prison Research Group. If approved, this workshop would give us the opportunity to develop those interconnections in more sustained and rigorous ways. By working together through relevant readings and sharing ideas for lesson-plans, each of us could incorporate multidisciplinary perspectives into the courses about crime and punishment that we already teach (including ECON 266 – Economics of Crime & Punishment, PHIL 141 – Punishment & Responsibility, PSYC 217 – Psychology and Law, PSYC 260 – Abnormal Psychology, PSYC 270 – Personality Theories, and SOC 3XX – Sociology of Prisons & Punishment). That work could also be integrated into the senior theses and other student-projects that we supervise and the ongoing work of the Prison Research Group, enhancing the experiences of those students (and other faculty). Finally, we believe that there is a significant possibility of the development of new team-taught courses involving two or more of us, and/or of the development of other collaborative academic opportunities open to students (such as an informal reading group, Independent Study framework, or summer workshop).