Interpreting Crime Literature
If the "Howard Postings" from last week's Washington Post are your "text," what does your interpretive training enable you to see there? Since this is relatively simplified literature, actors and actions and objects being attacked or taken or misused or discovered, it works much like folktales. Because it is a repetitive formula, it is ideal for Structuralist analysis, and for Deconstruction, like the popular culture systems analyzed by Barthes in Mythologies. Can you detect how the narrative of crime is structured in Howard County Maryland? Think of it as an anthropologist would examine the rituals of a strange tribe to determine their "deck of cards" with which they construct their symbolic universe? What are the repeated roles, the actions, and the objects? Can you detect the circulations of capital by which the illicit and licit economies exchange goods with one another? Remember to think about necessary events before and after those specific rituals being reported here. Hypothesize what must have occurred first to enable the ritual participants (including those absent and present) to perform their roles, and what likely will happen afterward as a result of the rituals. That is the start of your "thick description" of the structural system which enables the Crime Literature of Howard County.
To destroy, productively, the notion that the crime rituals described in these texts are "normal" or "natural, compare them with an example from C17 England, take a look at advertisements in the lower right column of the back page of the London Gazette, January 24-28, 1688. Click on this link for the October 1, 1688 issue of the Gazette for the list of crimes excluded from the king's general pardon for that year--even in crime, there are "privileged" and "privative" acts. For comparison with a digital form of "Crime Literature," see these examples of a "Nigerian letter" or "419 fraud."