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Darkness, Metaphor, Segregation of criminals, Punishment, Classical literature, Botany Bay, Anality, Criminal justice


An article such as this one, which seeks to examine the labyrinthine chains of meanings that we associate with illegal behavior, cries out for an interdisciplinary approach. Specifically, it demands a source that can reveal our unconscious as well as our conscious associations. Such a source is classical literature -- works of fiction that, by virtue of being read and loved through centuries and across continents, have proven their capacity to strike a responsive chord in their readers. Therefore, in Part II of this Article, I employ the classics, supplemented by occasional examples from contemporary fiction, history, and theology, to demonstrate the pervasiveness of the anal metaphor for criminals.

After this examination of the larger picture, in Part Ill the Article offers an extended illustration, a case study in legal history: namely, the Botany Bay venture, Britain's 1786 decision to found a penal colony in Australia and its eighty-one-year-long practice of banishing criminals to that remote continent. The history of Australia is replete with descriptions of convicts as "sewage" and of their island-prison as a "dunghill," a "cesspool," and a "sink of wickedness."'

In Part IV, this Article shows how the theory of anality sheds light on other areas of criminal justice: vagrancy law, with its emphasis on "cleaning up" neighborhoods and towns; eighteenth century prison reform with its goal of "perfect order and perfect silence";' and juvenile justice, with its effort to remove children from messy cities of contagious criminality to rural homes of supposed order and purity. In the final pages, I discuss American cases in which judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys reveal their vision of criminals as filth.

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Tulane Law Review