By Maurizio Ascari
This booklet takes a glance on the evolution of crime fiction. contemplating 'criminography' as a approach of inter-related sub-genres, it explores the connections among modes of literature corresponding to revenge tragedies, the gothic and anarchist fiction, whereas considering the impression of pseudo-sciences similar to mesmerism and felony anthropology.
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Additional info for A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational
This persistence of gothic and supernatural elements invites us to reassess the binary opposition between scientific detection and revelation as well as that between human and divine justice, for it is in the interstices of these dimensions that the appeal of much contemporary crime fiction still resides. Part I Supernatural and Gothic 2 Detection before Detection Those critics who take an encyclopaedic approach to crime fiction customarily cite among the sources of the genre two episodes from Genesis in the first book of the Bible, which can be read as the religious foundation myth of Western society.
Ghosts, politics and revenge The popular belief in divine justice is publicly denounced as a fraud by the arch-villain of Renaissance theatre – Machiavel – in his prologue to The Jew of Malta (c. 1590). Christopher Marlowe was famously accused of atheism by his fellow playwright Thomas Kyd, seemingly under torture, and one cannot help but wonder whether these lines from Machiavel’s soliloquy actually betray Marlowe’s thoughts on divine retribution, I count religion but a childish toy, And hold there is no sin but ignorance.
77 Indeed, Milton and Shakespeare were both identified as amateurs of murder78 by De Quincey, who thus claimed them as forerunners of a lofty genealogy of crime literature. Due to this strategy, which was aimed at legitimising a literary genre that was perceived as ‘low’, the Romantic author can be regarded as the precursor of writers such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton and Elizabeth Braddon, whose ‘self-ennobling’ critical works defend sensationalism against its conservative detractors. As we have seen, a huge shift from the rhetoric of sin to a disciplinary and aesthetic treatment of crime took place at the beginning of the Victorian period.
A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational by Maurizio Ascari