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Oral History and Delinquency

The Rhetoric of Criminology

From Henry Mayhew’s classic study of Victorian slums to Studs Terkel’s presentations of ordinary people in modern America, oral history has been used to call attention to social conditions. By analyzing the nature and circumstances of the production of such histories of delinquency, James Bennett argues that oral history is a rhetorical device, consciously chosen as such, and is to be understood in terms of its persuasive powers and aims. Bennett shows how oral or life histories of juvenile delinquents have been crucial in communicating the human traits of offenders within their social context, to attract interest in resources for programs to prevent delinquency. Although life history helped to establish the discipline of sociology, Bennett suggests concepts for understanding oral histories generated in many fields.

380 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1981


Law and Legal Studies: General Legal Studies

Rhetoric and Communication

Sociology: Criminology, Delinquency, Social Control

Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations 
1. Eloquent Advocacy: Mayhew’s Use of Oral History
2. Mayhew on Delinquency and "Street Biography"
3. John Clay and the "Cell Confessional"
4. Boosterism: The Art of the Appendix in Nineteenth-Century America
5. Snitching Bees and Talking Cures: The Early Juvenile Court
6. "If Men Define Situations as Real, They Are Real in Their Consequences"
7. Chicago: The City as Laboratory
8. Transmission of Delinquent and Reformist Attitudes: Clifford Shaw
9. The Political Paradigm: Saul Alinsky, Howard S. Becker, and the Autobiography of a Girl Drug Addict
10. Conclusions: Genesis, Function, Accomplishment
Appendix: Aspects of Technique: Mayhew, Healy, and Shaw

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