November 18, 2016

Friday group reading on celebrity murderers

Writing about web page http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/history/students/modules/hi398/timetable/ripperdyer/

Please could you read the following:

Dan - Yardley and Wilson

Ella - Warwick

Anna S - Warwick and Willis

Robin - Walkowitz

Anna B - Rosner

Keiran - Murphy

Helen - Monkton Smith

Victoria - McGowan

Lewis - McCracken-Flesher

Alice - Gray

Ellie - Crone

Rachel - Butcher

James - Bland


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  1. Ellie Martin

    Crone’s article Crone highlights how stories represent a wider channel of communication expressing contemporary anxieties and fears about urban change intertwined with myths about serial killing. Fictional narratives of serial killing that circulated in metropolitan popular culture offered ordinary people a way of seeing, describing and understanding the environment in which they lived, and the anxieties of everyday life it brought with it. She also links its expansion to class, and how the different anxieties of the classes lead to different creations of serial killers. To do this, she choses 2 examples. The story of Sawney Beane and Sweeney Todd.

    SAWNEY BEANE
    Story based upon a pamphlet produced in 1675 called ‘The Bloody Innkeeper.’ couple who kept an inn near the village of Putley, on the well-used road between Gloucester and Bristol. Murdered and robbed travellers that attended their inn.

    Sawney Beane emerged around 1700. Evil man who ran away with an evil woman. They settled in a cave by the seaside.The Beane family never went into any city, town or village. Instead they supported themselves by robbing and murdering travellers who passed their cave.

    This story highlights the concerns of the merchant, professional classes, who were forced as a result of their business to make perilous trips with their money and goods to trade. This also makes reference to serial killing remaining in the rural environments of England. As London expanded, and the rest of the country expanded with rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, the rural setting became redundant as soon, merchants and workers had neither the need nor the resources to travel outside the city of London. This paved the way for a shift to a new narrative that played on the metropolitan fears of trading within the inner city.

    SWEENEY TODD
    Began in the pages of Edward Lloyd’s People’s Periodical and Family Library, under the slightly obscure title ‘The String of Pearls.’ Outlines the story of a man who is travelling to see a friend with a gift, pops into the barber’s and reveals he is travelling with a valuable item. Barber murders him through a murderous chair and tries to sell his stash. After placing the gentlemen in the barber’s chair, Todd pulls a lever which causes the chair to spin, casting the unsuspecting victims into the stone vaults below. At a convenient moment, Todd enters the vaults, robs the customer of his valuables, and then slices the body into bite-size chunks. Goes into business with Mrs Lovett, a local pie-maker, with human meat being traded from his cellar to her bakery through the vaults under Fleet Street.

    Sally Powell explores the social context of this story. For Powell, this story gave voice to profound social anxiety about aggressive commercial forces generated by the industrial city. This theme became embodied in Sweeney Todd’s murder machine, at the beginning of a sophisticated production line, which transformed unsuspecting customers into a highly marketable product: meat pies. Instead, they sell the bodies, though in disguised form, thus highlighting the commodification of the corpse in urban society.

    Furthermore, Powell argues pies drew on concerns about the use of diseased meat in products for human consumption an fears about the vulnerability of urban foodstuffs to contamination as a result of badly maintained sewage systems and overcrowded burial grounds. In an environment in which the labouring classes had become isolated from the original source of their food and, due to a lack of adequate cooking facilities, it was easy to fear the content of popular foods such as pies.
    Poor nutrition and squalid living conditions encouraged the spread of disease and increased mortality rates. The large number of victims, their anonymity and the mechanical nature of their deaths formed a frightening parallel with the condition of the faceless, poor, urban mass.

    20 Nov 2016, 19:01

  2. Alexandra Warwick and Martin Willis, Jack the Ripper: media, culture, history

    Warwick and Millis’ collection, Jack the Ripper: Media, culture, history, comprises some of the best academic work on one of the most sensational murder cases the nineteenth century has to offer. They begin with a short introduction to Jack the Ripper and his actions, describing the mass interest which still circles around him to this day. In Whitechapel, for example, walking tours are still packed, visiting the sites where the bodies of Jack’s victims were found. Similarly, several thousand people will daily visit the Jack the Ripper tableaux in Madame Tussaud’s and the London Dungeon.

    The question Warwick and Millis really seek the answer for, however, is why? There are many different reactions to this. Ripperologists, those who have dedicated their working life to studying Jack the Ripper, simply claim it is one of the, ‘most famous unsolved crimes’, ever and it is still exciting to investigate who the murderer could possibly be.

    The authors published in this collection, on the other hand, have little care for who the real murderer was. Rather, they are concerned with the discourses and representations of the murders and murderer since the first press reports in August 1888. In much of the writing on the women involved, for example, their deaths become the backdrop to a, ‘mythological mystery’. Sex murder, in this case, is represented as a, ‘mysterious force of nature, an expression of deeply repressed “human” urges’, almost, ‘a fact of life’, rather than the product of, ‘the system of male domination’ (Caputi).

    Warwick and Millis’ book is organised into three sections: Media, Culture and History, to reflect the major studies from which scholarship has evolved. The media section describes the range of familiar stereotypes which emerged of Jack the RIpper, and the pivotal role the newspaper played in, ‘producing and consolidating’, the image of the killer. FIlm, also took up the character and the story, taking it into a new century. The next section, culture, focuses on the production of the ‘bogeymen’ (figures around whom social anxieties are constructed) and argues that Jack the RIpper has become a, ‘folk character’, a, ‘multiple personality’, that serves a purpose as a monster in contemporary society. The final section, history, concentrates on the impact of the Whitechapel murders. These analyses start from the perspective of race, class or gender to offer a more finely textured commentary. For example, from Walkowitz’s perspective, the RIpper story helped to produce feminist sexual politics and popular narratives about sexual danger which still influence public imagination today.

    22 Nov 2016, 14:21

  3. ‘The Doctor Dissected: A Cultural Autopsy of the Burke and Hare Murders’
    McCracken-Flesher

    This book discusses the infamous Burke and Hare murders, a series of 16 killings that were carried out in Edinburgh in 1828 for Doctor Knox, who used the victims for medical purposes. Doctor Knox was an esteemed war doctor and successful University Professor in Edinburgh. Once his classes started to become oversubscribed however he realised that he needed more bodies than he had available in order to conduct his course to the quality he desired. The murderous pair Burke and Hare met his demand with fresh corpses.

    This book puts a particular focus on the place of this tale in the wider Scottish body politic and cultural landscape. Flesher stresses that the memory of their exploits are still prominent in Scotland especially, trenching its way into the national psyche. She talks of a sort of Scottish cultural nationalism or morbid pride in regards to this gruesome episode of Scottish history, as it might not be a pleasant history, but it is their history. Although during the time, bodysnatchers and the secrets of dissection were no secret, (indeed, an entire industry developed to combat these sorts of crime and there were nationwide discussions about the lack of proper medical supplies in medical education), when viewed from today’s perspective, the crimes can seem impossible to grasp. She notes how the event is visited time and time again, but never resolved, especially as many of the facts remained unexplained, which further entrenched it into the community, who could also be considered a wider victim of these crimes.
    The book explores these themes and ideas by looking at the various developments of the cultural approach to the Burke and Hare Murders. From contemporary literature all the way to modern hollywood adaptations.

    23 Nov 2016, 18:15

  4. Lucy Bland’s ‘Modern women on trial : sexual transgression in the age of the flapper’ looks to understand and explain the reasoning behind certain high profile court cases of women in the inter-war period, doing so by analysing specific cases and drawing conclusions across them all. Each chapter looks at a different case, and the final chapter attempts to ascertain something of their lives after the court cases, if they were found not guilty.

    She puts particular focus on the idea of the flapper, or ‘butterfly woman’, which was often used as an insult, but also as a successful defence for various women, who were able to claim they were lead astray by other forces. Generally speaking, a woman who had been accused of killing a white man of some respect was to be found guilty, had she murdered a man of ‘oriental’ origin, she would be found not guilty.

    The book addresses issues of race and gender, what relationships were allowed, and challenging notions of ‘femininity’ and ‘masculinity’, prevalent during the inter-war period. Returning soldiers often found themselves struggling to attain work, often the jobs they once had lay now in the hands of women who worked them during the war. Whether or not a woman was working also bore some influence upon the verdict she would be given.

    In essence, a woman below the age of thirty, unmarried, unemployed, ‘led astray’ by a man of ‘Oriental’ origin would be not guilty, regardless of evidence. If she was married, engaged in an affair with a ‘lesser’ man, working, and killed her white husband, she would be found guilty, regardless of evidence.

    The book addresses many challenges women faced during the interwar period through the lens of influential court cases.

    23 Nov 2016, 19:28

  5. Jane Monckton-Smith, Relating Rape and Murder
    Monckton-Smith contends that there is a widespread conflation of murder and rape in many narratives, including for the crimes of Jack the Ripper. There is no evidence to suggest that Jack the Ripper made any attempts to rape his victims, but sex has somewhat come to define the crime, victim and criminal.

    Chapter 2 provokes an interesting discussion on how applications of natural selection have been made to raping behaviour- Men seek to copulate with as many women as possible SO raping is written onto male behaviour at the level of the gene- this raises the problematic notion that raping behaviour is to some extent reproductively superior to non-raping behaviour. It also emphasises the historical resistance to acknowledge that women can also be naturally promiscuous. Additionally, chapter 2 mentions how historically, rape was a crime written in law/culture as an assault against the property of a man. This explains the lack of historical discussion of rape trauma- women were not the legally wronged individuals in a rape.

    Monckton-Smith then goes on to explain more specifically in relation to Jack the Ripper the effect that narratives of it have had on his evolution as a character. She argues that he has become more of a fictional construct than an historical figure. FBI investigations have placed him as the archetypal serial killer, in a study which feminised the victims by defining serial killers as sexual sadists. This victimisation serves as a warning to other ‘potential victims’ (women), persuading them to curb their choices/restrict their sexuality. She goes on to convincingly argue that many Jack the Ripper films are sexualised, with juxtapositions of sexual violence, sexual acts and female nudity. This has created a cause and effect relationship between illicit sex and death. Whilst women are denounced for sexual promiscuity, Jack the Ripper has in many accounts been seen as ‘menacingly sexually appealing’, which may be very far from his true character. In summary, she states that that Jack the Ripper’s legacy may originate from the misogynistic interpretations of the violence, rather than from the violence itself, but has undoubtedly increased the sexualisation of violence against women.

    24 Nov 2016, 11:38

  6. Douglas MacGowan writes about the sensational trial of Madeline Smith. A trial that’s legacy has remained because of the ‘Not Proven’ verdict that Madeline Smith was given. A ‘Not Proven’ verdict holds a lot of stigma because although the prosecution’s case was not strong enough for the jury to reach a verdict it still meant they didn’t think the defendant was guilty. Madeline Smith was the first defendant to receive a ‘not proven’ verdict. She remains one of the earliest and strongest example of an accused murderer whose celebrity extended long beyond the trial.
    Madeline’s extended celebrity lay in her both her class and gender. Madeline was an incredibly well-respected upper-class lady. She was even described as being from ‘the most respectable and estimable household.’ The interest in the crime led from the sensationalist affair that an upper class lady had with a lower-class immigrant who was then murdered in the process. Furthermore, it also attracted attention because women rarely committed homicide.
    Madeline was the only suspect to the crime because of the amount of circumstantial evidence that rapidly mounted against her. Firstly her relationship with Emile could not be denied because of the correspondence of with him in the form of letters. It was proof they had a relationship. It was also proof that Emile was blackmailing Madeline: he would show her father the letters if she did not agree to marry him. This gave her motive. Furthermore, the most incriminating piece of evidence would be Madeline’s frequent purchase of arsenic for ‘cosmetic purposes’ coincided with Emile’s stomach illnesses and later his death.
    The media became obsessed with the trial both during and after, and as always Madeline Smith proved to be divisive. Some newspapers saw her as a ‘Cold-Blooded Murderess’, others an ‘innocent victim or the rigid role of Victorian and thoughtless elite’, and even ‘a selfish thoughtless elite.’ The newspapers provided virtually 24 hour coverage of the trial, editorials were frequently written critiquing Madeline and various biographies were written after her acquittal.
    It was thought that the ‘not proven’ verdict was delivered because her jury consisted of 15 chivalrous men. For any man in Victorian Britain, it would prove a hard task to find a women guilty on one count of murder knowing that it would result in her death. Not forgetting that because of her background the Smiths were able to afford some of the best defence lawyers.

    24 Nov 2016, 18:17

  7. Dan Ewers

    Elizabeth Yardley and David Wilson’s book Female serial killers in social context: criminological institutionalism and the case of Mary Ann Cotton, attempts to explore the nature of female serial killers, examining the historiography, social context, and construction of the female serial killer in relation to the case of Mary Ann Cotton.

    Mary Ann Cotton, born in 1832, is believed to have killed 21 people by poisoning during her life. Cotton married numerous times, with many of her husbands, children, and those with close personal relationships to her dying from symptoms of arsenic poisoning. Yardley and Wilson have argued that she can be situated in between the Black Widow and Profit/Crime serial killer types outlined within the Kelleher and Kelleher typology, in that she killed those close to her, usually family members, and also selected her victims in order to gain financial profit from their deaths. In many of her killings, Cotton also conforms to the “caregiver” / “dependent” archetype, in that she killed those dependent upon her either for subsistence or care, most notably her children. Cotton was eventually arrested and, in 1873, was executed at Durham County Gaol following the delivery of her daughter, Margaret.

    Yardley and Wilson argue that, in order to understand the actions of the female serial killer, one must embrace intersectionality and institutionalism within the field of history. They argue that, to understand the actions of a female serial killer, one must mitigate between the macro- and micro-historical elements that such a study will require – the historian must embrace both the individual and the context in which she is killing. Intersectionality stresses the need for the acceptance that no person has a single factor in the formation of their “identity” – instead, it comprises of a number of convergent sociological spheres (class, race, gender, etc.) and in many cases the division between them. Institutionalism stresses the need to examine wider social structures (for example, religion, economy, family, education) and the embedded cultural understandings. Understanding the “typical” female serial killer obscures the fact that these women operated in distinct historico-cultural contexts and with varying motivations, wants, and opportunities. To construct the “typical” female serial killer according to Yardley and Wilson, is to lose the value of these institutional and intersectional aspects of the case.

    To quote Yardley and Wilson in their cocnlusions: ‘she successfully performed socially acceptable behaviour within them by drawing on mainstream norms and values. She was able to get away with murder because the gendered institutional configurations not only dictated her constrained social position but also ensured that no one would suspect a woman of such heinous crimes.’

    24 Nov 2016, 18:35

  8. Murphy’s article discusses ‘The Lady and the Law’ and its relation to the legal system in the 19th Century, specifically the 1857 trial of Madeline Smith. Her work places quite neatly in scholars enquiry into the complex relations in 19th Century realism with trial procedures and rules of evidence. A key focus of the article is the contrast between the Scottish and English legal systems, with the Law and the Lady generating sensational effects from this. Murphy discusses the somewhat mutual relationship of the novel and legal system, noting that whilst the trial conditions aspects of the novel, the novel raises questions about the trial. The novel and trial are not only places of knowledge production, but areas where broader epistemological anxieties can be registered.

    The trial of Madeline Smith was heavily publicised. It was a juxtaposition between a middle-class girl and Emile D’Angelier, a working class man from Jersey. Desiring women are, indeed, central to both trial and novel, as are questions of the relative transparency of language and identity. In this, we see the commentary on the intersecting relations between the novel, law, and popular culture. Collins’s fiction expresses a complex, if often critical, attitude to law. He discusses the not only the unreliability of legal systems, but the limited nature of the knowledge law can produce. The figure of Madeleine seemed to press at the boundaries of the visible: the apparent disparity between the emotional, sexually explicit letters to a clandestine lower-class lover and the calm, stylish young woman who apparently penned them offered a compelling enigma.

    Morality was a huge issue throughout the case. There was trouble for the judge and attorneys regulating the environment of the courtroom, especially since Madelin disrupted the reigning templates for Victorian bourgeois femininity in that the jury was unable to make sense of what was presented to them. Murphy looks into the notion that she had been seduced by a lower-class man who seemed, based on Inglis’s readings of her responses to D’Angelier’s missing letters, to be demanding and desirous of controlling all aspects of her conduct.

    Scots law is the only jurisdiction that offers juries the possibility of the not proven verdict. The verdict functions more or less as an acquittal; the defendant may go free, however damaging the receipt of such a verdict might be to his reputation. The case disrupted hegemonic images of the domestic as domain untroubled by “foreign invaders” and bourgeois femininity as free of undisciplined, and possibly violent, desires; but if the verdict satisfied so many onlookers, it did so by rearticulating these as moral concerns that were outside the reach of law’s determinative capacity and law’s violence. It posed a question, could this be going on in middle-class households? The not proven verdict has the effect of exposing the fractures in an official identity, marked by a proper name, which sutures a subject to a social order.

    A truism of Collins scholarship that his novels exhibit a deep interest in unconscious states and an often-complex grasp of psychology. Here what is foregrounded is the intrication of the psychological and the juridical. The ability to determine psychological facts and their connections to actions from observation, from available evidence, is repeatedly shown to be by turns subjective and reliant upon conventions that appear themselves drawn from other narratives. Muprhy argues that the Law and the Lady questions the construction of narratives, working to unsettle any assured way of connecting interior states to behaviours. The idea of a normative forensic subjectivity, the training in argument and skills in the evaluation of evidence, is itself placed on trial. Murphy notes that a key characteristic of many of Collins’s novels is the proliferation of documents: letters, diaries, written testimonies.

    24 Nov 2016, 21:38

  9. Judith Walkowitz in ‘Jack the Ripper and the Myth of Male Violence’, investigates how the story of Jack the Ripper was constructed out of the deeply entrenched tensions of class, gender and ethnic relations in 1888. In doing so, Walkowitz emphasises just how significant the actions of one man were in impacting a cross section of society with a geographic reach stretching out of the East End of London.

    Walkowitz first examines the social divisions that were prevalent in the 1880s and describes how these divisions deepened after the Whitechapel murders. She documents how the Ripper affair was preceded by the West End riots that initially ‘fed the flames of class hatred and disgust’. For the respectable classes therefore, those from the East End represented a menacing presence as a vast unsupervised underclass that could be readily mobilised to the ranks for a new socialist movement. Such class tensions, Walkowitz writes, became prominent with Dr Forbes Winslow concluded the Ripper was a maniac from the upper class of society. From this idea that the Ripper was of the upper class, the working men of the East end took this as a licence to accuse and intimidate their ‘betters’.

    Ethnic tensions existed at the time in the East End especially because it was popular with immigrants and refugees with many poor Jews escaping the pogroms of Eastern Europe in the 1880s. It marked a rise in anti-Semitism because there was already high unemployment in the East End and a severe housing crisis due to such an influx of people. Therefore, with the horrific murders of the five prostitutes, Jewish people were amongst the first to be targeted by the police, media and working men.

    Finally, Walkowitz addresses the how the Whitechapel murders ‘materially contributed to women’s sense of vulnerability in modern Urban culture.’ She also underlines how the murders affected women of different classes in contrasting ways. Middle class women often saw the victims as economically desperate women who violated their womanhood for a night’s lodging. Conversely, working class women were relegated to the indoors while the men patrolled the streets.

    24 Nov 2016, 23:34

  10. This article examines the meanings of the crime scene in serial killings, and the tensions between the real and the imagined in the circulation of those meanings. Starting with the Whitechapel Murders of 1888 it argues that they, as well as forming an origin for the construction of the identity of ‘the serial killer’, initiate certain ideas about the relationship of subjects to spaces and the existence of the self in the modern urban landscape. It suggests that these ideas come to play an integral part in the contemporary discourse of serial killing, both in the popular imagination and in professional analysis. Examining the Whitechapel Murders, more recent cases and modern profiling techniques, it argues that popular and professional representations of crime scenes reveal more of social anxieties about the nature of the public and the private than they do about serial killers. It suggests that ‘the serial killer’ is not a coherent type, but an invention produced from the confusions of persons and places.

    24 Nov 2016, 23:51

  11. Lisa Rosner, The Anatomy Murders: Being the True and Spectacular History of Edinburgh’s notorious Burke and Hare, and of the man of science who abetted them in the commission of their most heinous crimes
    • Over a 12 month period, they killed 16 people, (3 men, 12 women, & 1 child) in a murder spree that only ended with their arrest in November 1828 (1)
    • The motive was profit, for Edinburgh was a major centre of medical education, and lecturers would pay high prices for “subjects,” that is, cadavers for dissection. (1)
    • The means was a form of suffocation. Assisted by Hare’s wife, Margaret, and Burke’s companion, Helen M’Dougal, the two men enticed their victims to drink to insensibility, then lay on top of them, compressing the chest while holding the mouth and nostrils closed: “burking,” it came to be called.
    • The crimes were made possible in part by general conditions of the early nineteenth-century city, with its large mobile population and small police force. (1)
    • There were additional contributing circumstances: Margaret Hare ran a lodging house for transients in the busy immigrant district known as the West Port, and Dr. Robert Knox, the up-and-coming anatomist to whom the killers sold the cadavers, asked no questions. (1)
    • These were the first serial killings to capture media attention, sixty years before Jack the Ripper. The early nineteenth century was marked by an enormous expansion in the popular press, and news of horrific murders sold sensationally. Edinburgh newspapers eagerly followed the story, providing daily and even twice-daily reports and commentary. These reports were reprinted and embellished in the periodical press from London, Manchester, and Dublin to New York, Boston, and the Ohio frontier. (2)
    • Full-length versions followed as soon as publishers could set the type. An avid reading public scooped them up, binding them together with lurid illustrations, broadsheets, and caricatures. (2)
    • The impact of the murders reverberated well outside of Scotland, for they coincided with political developments that ultimately transformed modern Britain. In 1828 the Tory establishment, which held power in Parliament, was under attack by Whig opposition leaders agitating for governmental reform. During precisely the period that Burke and Hare peddled their cadavers, a Whig-led parliamentary committee was investigating the way in which medical schools obtained bodies for dissection. The Select Committee on Anatomy, as it came to be known, made public the dangers inherent in the body trade. Once the murders came to light, committee members seized on Burke and Hare as the “true authors” of the reforms they proposed. The government, they claimed, was “responsible for the crime which it has fostered by its negligence, and even encouraged by a system of forbearance.” (3) Within a few years the Whigs were in power, and the Tories had all but ceased to exist. In 1832 Parliament passed the Reform Act, which legislated an unprecedented increase (3) in the number of male voters and gave representation to Britain’s growing industrial centres
    • Rosner argues- The Burke and Hare murders became permanently enshrined as a symbol of the “bad old days” before Parliament’s Great Reform, before enlightened legislation and modern progress. (4)
    • 1861 Alexander Leighton published The Court of Cacus; or, the Story of Burke and Hare, in part it was an exposé of the medical practices of the 1820s. The true villains of his book were not Burke and Hare, nor were they the medical profession as a whole. Instead, Leighton put the blame on anatomy teachers who created the demand for bodies, vying to see who could most callously overstep the bounds of human decency in obtaining them- human greed and competitiveness (5)
    • Rosner attempts to highlight the history of the histories written about the case, and how this adapted over time.

    25 Nov 2016, 08:40


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