April 29th — Emily Powell: A corpus stylistic analysis of agency in pre-crime narratives

A corpus stylistic analysis of agency in pre-crime narratives


Bamberg’s (2011) model of identity navigation consists of three dilemmatic spaces that are navigated by a narrator, one of which is agency (i.e. variation in the use of linguistic devices that present them as victims, as ‘self constructers’, or somewhere in-between). The agency dimension is particularly relevant to criminal narratives because it provides an insight into how criminals negotiate their own sense of responsibility for their crimes.


Several studies have looked at agency in criminal narratives after a crime (O’Connor 2000, Presser 2010); however, the analysis of agency in pre-crime narratives would provide an insight into the state of mind of an offender before the crime is committed, and indicate how their sense of responsibility changes in the days and months leading up to a crime.


This presentation will outline plans for a study that will explore the role that agency plays in the narratives of offenders before they commit crimes. A corpus stylistic approach will be used to analyse the way in which the perpetrators navigate agency in a corpus of pre-crime narratives, and how the responsibility that they take for their actions changes as they prepare for and move closer to committing their crimes.




Bamberg, M. 2011. Narrative practice and identity navigation. In: Holstein, J.A. and Gubrium, J.F. eds. Varieties of narrative analysis.  London: Sage, pp. 99-124.


O’Connor, P. E. 2000. Speaking of crime: Narratives of prisoners. London: University of Nabraska Press.


Presser, L. 2010. Collecting and analysing the stories of offenders. Journal of Criminal Justice Education. 21 (4), pp. 431-446.