The Cultural Life of Capital Punishment (Spr) (L4091B)

30 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

This module will incorporate sociological, criminological, socio-legal and cultural approaches in order to study capital punishment. Primarily, it will involve you engaging with a 'cultures of punishment' perspective on the death penalty, drawing on capital punishment scholars such as David Garland (2010), Austin Sarat (2001) and Franklin Zimring (2003). This perspective emphasises the need to understand the symbolic meanings generated by punishment and how these relate to social change. The module will involve studying capital punishment in its historical and contemporary contexts. After establishing this theoretical framework the module will take a broadly chronological approach from the 19th century to the present and will address the following topics: spectacle and public execution; the campaign to end public executions; mid 20th century abolitionism; public views on capital punishment in England; American reinstatement of the death penalty; cultural portrayals of capital punishment; women and the death penalty; 'new abolitionism' and the innocence movement in the United States; European cosmopolitan identity and the campaign for worldwide abolition; current use of the death penalty worldwide with a particular focus on Singapore, Japan and China. The focus will largely be on European countries and the United States, although the final topic will introduce a wider international dimension.


33%: Lecture
67%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 300 hours of work. This breaks down into 33 hours of contact time and 267 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2019/20. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.