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Crime

josh
June 19, 2015 0 Comment

Crime

OPTION 1: telling the story of the Ratcliffe Highway murders of 1811

Question:
Identify and discuss the true crime tale as a literature of sensation (Halttunen) by critically contrasting De Quincey’s account of the Marr/Williamson murders in his 1856 ‘Postscript’ to the Art of Murder with the following three sources (these can all be found on vUWS):

‘John Williams’, in the Complete Newgate Calendar

‘John Williams’, in Celebrated Trials and Remarkable Cases of Jurisprudence from Earliest records to the Year 1825, Vol. IV

‘Horrid and Unparalleled Murders’, in La belle Assemble: being Bell’s Court and Fashion Magazine, Addressed Particularly to the Ladies, (December 1811). Vol IV—New Series, July 1—Dec 31, 1811

The testimony of  ‘the journeyman’, Turner (extracted from P. D. James and T.A. Critchley, The Maul and the Pear Tree: the Ratcliffe Highway Murders of 1811)

ESSENTIAL READING
(Your response to the task must demonstrate your use of all of the following sources, primary and secondary):

Primary sources (in the reader or links to be found on the additonal/assessment support reading list in vUWS)

Thomas De Quincey, ‘Postscript to Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts’, On Murder, Robert  Morrison (Ed.). Oxford University Press, 2009 (in the unit reader)
‘John Williams’, in the Complete Newgate Calendar, Volume 5. From e-text of The Complete Newgate Calendar. London (Navarre Society Ltd., 1926), digitized for the Law in Popular Culture Collection, Tarlton Library, U.Texas.
‘John Williams’, in Celebrated Trials and Remarkable Cases of Jurisprudence from Earliest records to the Year 1825, Vol. IV (London: Printed for Knight and Lacey, 1825).
‘Horrid and Unparalleled Murders’, in La belle Assemble: being Bell’s Court and Fashion Magazine, Addressed Particularly to the Ladies, (December 1811). Vol IV—New Series, July 1—Dec 31, 1811
The testimony of  ‘the journeyman’, Turner (extracted from P. D. James and T.A. Critchley, The Maul and the Pear Tree, pp. 90-92)

Secondary sources (YOU MUST USE AT LEAST TWO OF THESE):

Joel Black, ‘Murder as (fine) art’. In The aesthetics of murder: a study in romantic literature and contemporary culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, c1991.
Robert Morrison, ‘Introduction’,  On Murder, Robert  Morrison (Ed.). Oxford University Press, 2009.
Thomas De Quincey, ‘On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth’, On Murder, Robert  Morrison (Ed.). Oxford University Press, 2009.
Karen Halttunen, ‘The Pornography of Violence’, Murder most foul: the killer and the American Gothic imagination. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press,1998 pp. 60-90

Additional reading

Thomas De Quincey, ‘On Murder considered as one of the fine arts’ (First essay), in , On Murder, Robert  Morrison (Ed.). Oxford University Press, 2009.
Thomas De Quincey, ‘Second paper on Murder considered as one of the fine arts’, in , On Murder, Robert  Morrison (Ed.). Oxford University Press, 2009.
P. D. James and T.A. Critchley, The Maul and the Pear Tree: the Ratcliffe Highway Murders of 1811.  London: Sphere, 1987.

Hints and tips
The key is to find out what makes De Quincey’s account of the murders distinctive as an example of a true crime tale preoccupied with sensation and the sensational.

You may find it helpful to focus on one or more of the following aspects of the texts:
•    Narrative and temporal structure (choices about the order and timing of the events narrated)
•    Point of view  (what character’s perspective the account is narrated from, or what characters the narrative preoccupies itself with at any given time, and why)
•    Characterization  (how the murderer/victims/witnesses/bystanders in the story are characterized)
•    How atmosphere is evoked in the story
•    The balance in the work between interpretation (back-story/context to the events/ the significance of the events in the writer’s opinion etc) and narrative description (the story itself)
The moral framework of the narrative: is there one?

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