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By the early twentieth century the modernization of American criminal law had become an issue of widespread public concern, both in professional circles and in the popular press. Bar leaders, such as Roscoe Pound and William Howard Taft, proposed to improve the machinery of criminal justice by tightening procedural rules and enhancing the authority of trial judges. Their efforts at “scientific” law reform led to the creation of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology in 1909.

Creative writers, on the other hand, influenced by the rise of literary realism, tended to produce popular novels and plays that sympathized with the powerless defendany caught up in a dehumanizing bureaucratic process. This essay explores the interplay of legal norms and imaginative literature as it affected two subjects of great public interest in the Progressive Era: (a) changes in the substantive law of crimes and (b) the problem of the criminal corporation.

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