FIL-30008 - Crime in Neoconservative America
Coordinator: David S Mcwilliam Tel: +44 1782 7 34575
Lecture Time: See Timetable...
Level: Level 6
Credits: 15
Study Hours: 150
School Office: 01782 733147

Programme/Approved Electives for 2022/23


Available as a Free Standing Elective






Barred Combinations


Description for 2022/23

Neoconservatism, a reaction within American culture and politics against the liberalism of the 1960s and faith in the ability of the state to address the socio-economic causes of crime, seeks to position the criminal as ultimately responsible for their actions. The consequences of this ideological hegemony has been a rejection of rehabilitative schemes and an increasingly punitive justice system, with policies such as three strike laws for offences that are often nonviolent, mass incarceration, the public labelling and shaming of offenders, and the use of the death penalty as a deterrent. This module will explore US filmic and televisual representations of crime in relation to neoconservative ideology. Students will be expected to develop sophisticated responses to the complexities of texts that sometimes both embody and critique the neoconservative framing of crime and criminals. As such, this module will combine nuanced close reading of texts with historical and political contextualization in order to consider the ways in which issues of gender, race, and class are addressed in films and television shows from the 1970s to the present.
Indicative Course Structure:
Week 1 What is Neoconservativism?
Week 2 Antecedents: Don Siegel, 'Dirty Harry' (1971)
Week 3 The Serial Killer: John McNaughton, 'Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer' (1986)
Week 4 Satanic Panic: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 'Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills' (1996)
Week 5 Gang Violence: Tony Kaye, 'American History X' (1998)
Week 6 Terrorism: Robert Cochran and Joel Surnow, '24', Season One (2001-10)
Week 7 Drugs: David Simon, 'The Wire', Season One (2002-8)
Week 8 Prostitution: Patty Jenkins, 'Monster' (2003)
Week 9 Paedophilia: Nicole Kassell, 'The Woodsman' (2004)
Week 10 Vigilantism: James Manos Jr., 'Dexter' Season One (200613)
Week 11 School Shootings: Lynne Ramsay, 'We Need to Talk about Kevin' (2011)
Week 12 Essay Preparation
Please contact the module coordinator, Dr David McWilliam,, if you have any queries.

To engage with American neoconservatism as the dominant paradigm for the framing of crime in the United States from the 1980s to the present, while paying close attention to shifts in trends and resistance.
To develop students' film/television-analytical skills and film/television-theory knowledge to an advanced level.
To enable students to relate filmic and televisual formal features to issues of historical knowledge.

Talis Aspire Reading List
Any reading lists will be provided by the start of the course.

Intended Learning Outcomes

apply advanced skills in close textual reading of film and/or television (mise-en-scene analysis): 1,2
situate films and/or television shows in relation to political and historical context: 1,2
analyse how the representation of crimes and criminals in films and/or television shows address wider debates about how they are conceptualised: 1,2
demonstrate skills in referencing and bibliography: 1,2
analyse formal features of films and/or television shows to an advanced level: 1,2

Study hours

10 x 2-hour seminars (20 hours)
1 x Assessment workshop (1 hour)
Film and television screenings (20 hours)
Seminar preparation (50 hours)
Short Paper preparation (24 hours)
Essay preparation (35 hours)

School Rules


Description of Module Assessment

1: Short Paper weighted 30%
1,500-word analysis of a key scene using extracts from criticism
1,500-word analysis of a key scene from one of the primary texts in relation to extracts from criticism about neoconservativism, written up in essay format to include references and a bibliography.

2: Essay weighted 70%
A 2,500-word essay from a list of approved questions
A 2,500-word essay about two of the primary texts studied on the module answering questions on the neoconservative framing of crime.