Return to Birdie Process Text: Literature and Criminal Justice

Dear Habermas Logo and Link to Site Index A Jeanne Site

Lilith and Appel's Kandinsky Figurine and Link to Home Criminal Justice

Process Text on Lilith
Pass? or Prepared? on Lilith as "Bad" Girl

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: July 18, 2000
E-Mail Curran or Takata.

Literature as a Tool for
Cross-Disciplinary Critical Thinking


Literature is an integral part of my teaching of social and criminal justice. One of the texts I have chosen for a new graduate course in Distributive Justice is Gordon Fellman's Rambo and the Dalai Lama. Fellman uses film to illustrate his theory on adversarial versus mutuality paradigms. Right along with that teaching goes the role of gender in critical response to civic responsibility and social justice. [67]

Lilith, of Jewish lore, in addition to being described as "Adam's first wife," or Eve's sister, represents the "dark" side of the feminine, the feminine not content to accept the patriarchal assignment of gender roles. In that sense, she represents the "bad" girl, par excellence, and she plays a significant role in "sisterhood." Both of these issues are of primary importance in the teaching of criminal justice in the 21st Century, as women become ever more ensnared in the criminal justice system, both as perpetrators and as workers. [88]

Yes, literature serves to illustrate the issues, to create empathy more effectively. But it is not a single work we have selected in the choice of Lilith, but the myth, as it occurs and reoccurs in both literature and our beliefs about justice, about the normative social roles from which we are permitted to choose. About the role of the normative in defining crime, and in affixing the boundaries of crime in which those definitions permit us to partake. [78]

The paper will include both exposition of the role of gender, as illustrated through Lilith, and the interactive process in which we engage our students to effect a more critical approach to all literature, including professional literature. We will choose a number of works from which to illustrate the use of the Lilith literature to engage students of justice in interactive projects, relying on the Web for that interaction. This allows us to extend the reach of our effort to heighten empathy, challenge normative positions, elucidate their unstated assumptions, and bring concepts of justice to critical scrutiny. [97]

Preliminary Abstract

I am in the process of setting up on the Web a new course in Distributive Justice, in which one of the texts will be Gordon Fellman's Rambo and the Dalai Lama. I am intrigued by Fellman's use of film to illustrate his theory on adversarial versus mutuality paradigms, and I am further intrigued by the use of literature to facilitate communication and break down some of the opposition between paradigms.

I would be interested in putting together something on the themes of Lilith, taken by women writers, the strand of fairy and folk tales that feature the "dark" woman, and what this whole strain of literature means for those of us who work with women in the criminal justice system.  Texts I had in mind are Which Lilith? (1) and Among Women (2). Would this be appropriate?

1. Enid Dame, Lilly Rivlin, and Henny Wenkart. Which Lilith?  Jason Aronson Inc. Northvale, New Jersey, Jerusalem. 1998.

2. Louise Bernikow. Among Women. Harmony Books. New York. 1980.

Abstract Sidetracked by Teaching Component

This abstract actually covers the material in the American Political Science Association Paper on How Moot Court Grew into Peacemaking Discourse and the material in the distance learning paper for the Learning 2000 conference. Notice how easy it is to get sidetracked when you must juggle many things at once.

In this abstract I have strongly emphasized the teaching component. I think tomorrow I will revise that to emphasize more the themes of Lilith and of adversarialism and multuality. That is very possibly because I spent most of the day designing interactive projects for visual literacy and writing literacy. This abstract will now be cut and pasted to provide a major portion of the paper on the use of Process Texts for Learning 2000, which is also due shortly. Just notice how easy it is, when juggling different types of conferences, over different disciplines, to get sidetracked. I'm not even going to touch this tonight. Check it out tomorrow morning, late. jeanne. July 18, 10 p.m.

Literature has long been a tool for understanding. We as humans are curious, curious about other humans, their situations, their stories. And teachers have long used that curiosity as a tool in teaching. Today presents special problems for teachers, for the world seems to be moving on a fast track for all of us. And teaching must somehow be fitted into the space and time not consumed by competitive activities. [69]

Urban and rural commuter colleges are plagued by the crises of students whose lives are complex, and whose attentions must necessarily be divided. My colleague at Wisconsin and I have found that our students are more intensely motivated, and read and study more extensively, when we recognize and include materials that can be readily shared with familly members, and when we can find interactive approaches. "Learning by doing" works. [56]

What both of us prize most in teaching is effective academic discourse with our students. At the commuter college there is rarely enough time for that. So we use our website, Dear Habermas, to handle the mechanics of "banking" learning, and save the prized class time for in depth discussions of leading edge criminal and social justice issues. But there is a trick to distance learning. We have to motivate the students to follow through in intensive study. We have managed that by using the techniques we have learned together, and by adding art, literature, and music as sanctioned means of communication. [100]

We don't know exactly when writing and reading became forms of punishment. But term papers must have had something to do with it. We wanted our students to read because it was so exciting to read, they wanted to. And so we used Louis Sachar's Holes [5.], Winner of the National Book Award, and of the John Newberry Medal. Dozens of our students read that book with their children. And juvenile justice took on new meaning when we offered Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle. Siblings and older family members shared this one. But criminal and social justice became a part of their lives, for talking about, not cramming. [108]

In this paper we give samples of how we shared with our students how to illustrate, with simple, easily accesible software, a fable. And then provided an interactive project for rewriting the fable to suit our times, our world, our values. Then, of course, we redid the illustrations to fit our modern Fable of Peace. [55]

Finally, we address the literary topic of Lilith, the first Eve of Jewish lore. For this paper, we have developed the themes of "good" girl, "bad" girl, incest, "bad" mothers, and the definition and normative parading of "crime." To make our site more useable for everyone, we have followed our own templates to illustrate the extent to which we can actually use art, literature, and music to get students to read and write, and to think critically about criminal and social justice. [82]

Lilith and Criminal Justice:
Literature as a Tool for Cross-Disciplinary Critical Thinking

by Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata
Part of Distributive Justice Series
Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, June 2000. "Fair Use" encouraged.


I was surprised and delighted to learn of this conference. I had been quietly off in my own little corner, working at structuring material that would be truly interactive to expand the interactive capacity of our teaching in criminal and social justice. I had been devouring books, like Jackson's John Dewey and the Lessons of Art [1], and relishing my students' devouring of Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle [2] and Louis Sachar's Holes [3].

At the same time I was appalled, as is Philip W. Jackson [4], at the superficiality of the kinds of art and literature literacy used to give our students the communication skills that might efficiently guide them to critical thinking in all fields. John Dewey really did mean more by "learning by doing" than engaging in just any activity to stay awake. I am also appalled that showing any video or film, filling any journal, or putting together just any portfolio somehow counts as interactive learning and/or the innovative use of media in our classrooms.

Thus, the theme for this conference was more than welcome. And breakthroughs had just come in our understanding of how to use the Web to accomplish more interactive work. This paper summarizes the ways in which we have come to use art and literature in our criminal justice classes, and the ways in which we have learned to make those efforts more interactive than a quick click to switch to another page.

At first I feared that our interdependence with the Web might make it impossible for me to translate effectively what we are doing to a traditional paper. Since we are trying to make our work truly interactive, would I be able to string it all together into a linear format that would make sense? Well, of course I could! To paraphrase Jerome S. Bruner, if you really understand what you're doing you can explain it even in hardcopy.

I focused the paper on Lilith, because my specialty is social justice in face of difference. I offer courses in peacemaking, in love as a non-violent response to the structural violence of our present culture, courses on juveniles and women in the criminal justice system. So Lilith, who was taken as an icon by some of us in the Seventies' Women's Movement, seemed an ideal choice.

We began with a Process Text. Notes and themes we put up quickly, so that colleagues and students have access to what we are doing, and can share in the academic discourse. In the midst of that we were completing work on new interactive projects related to the paradigms of adversality and mutuality, which were part of our focus in distributive justice and social theory. It was our hope that by the time of this confrence we could have an entire Process Text available on our site, with templates that our colleagues could easily adapt to their own uses. Large chunks of that text are now up at Lilith and Criminal Justice, and will continue to include collegial input until the time of the conference.

Origins of Our Project

Pierre Bourdieu [5] reminds us that academic discourse is not now taught effectively, if it ever were. Studies of Ph.D. [6.] granting institutions remind us that with increasing budget crises in higher education even elite schools cannot afford the leisure of extensive academic discourse, especially when their students are need for the teaching and research tasks that were once budgeted differently. So everywhere there is more training than thinking built into the structure. By the time that trickles down to the local commuter college, there is barely any time and funding for in-depth

The Choosing of Lilith

She was already part of our Love 1A course. And she had come up in Women and Crime. She has a lot to do with adversarialism versus mutuality, from our distributive justice and peacemaking courses.

Basing Our Work on Patterns from the Project

We had been using Pass? or Prepared?s. Students requested them. And we had been trying to make them more interactive as learning measures.

Creating Visual and Story-Telling Interactive Projects on Lilith to Elicit Critical Thinking on Women and Criminal Justice

Literacy as Tool in Critical Thinking.


  1. Philip W.Jackson, John Dewey and the Lessons of Art
  2. Paul Beatty, The White Boy Shuffle
  3. Louis Sachar, Holes
  4. Philip W.Jackson, John Dewey and the Lessons of Art, supra
  5. Pierre Bourdieu, Academic Discourse, Stanford reissue.
  6. Stanford Center for Research in Higher Education
    Study presented at Queen's College Conference on Class and Higher Education, late '80s, early 90's.