Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Leisa Meyer


Deviants of Great Potential analyzes the 1924 Leopold-Loeb case as a cultural narrative with important effects on the marginalization of same-sex sexuality in men throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. After Chicago teenagers Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were arrested for the United States' first nationally recognized "thrill killing," the apparently motiveless murder of fourteen-year-old Robert Franks, the Leopold-Loeb case became an instant cause celebre. The popular fixation on the case continued in the decades after 1924, as journalists and behavioral scientists treated it as a precedent for understanding a certain type of crime and criminal. Meanwhile---especially after World War II---a slew of novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers offered their own interpretations.;Through the intertwining representations of the case in fiction and nonfiction, the Leopold-Loeb case became a cautionary tale about the dangers of "abnormal" sexuality in men. Narratives of the case portrayed Leopold and Loeb's sexual relationship as the sine qua non of Robert Franks's murder, and the case thereby came to represent same-sex sexuality as a threat to moral order and public safety, and to serve as a counterexample of the traits "normal" men should or should not exhibit.



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