By Maurizio Ascari
This publication takes a glance on the evolution of crime fiction. contemplating 'criminography' as a method of inter-related sub-genres, it explores the connections among modes of literature resembling revenge tragedies, the gothic and anarchist fiction, whereas making an allowance for the effect of pseudo-sciences reminiscent of mesmerism and legal anthropology.
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Additional resources for A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational
The eighteenth-century Newgate Calendars are rooted in this tradition of criminal biographies and can still be regarded as ‘providential fictions’, for they present a sequence of earthly events as the result of a God-directed script. 55 The pattern of crime and punishment, however, is less pervaded by God’s gaze and presence, and therefore less formulaic than in the previous century, while these narratives are fraught with new forms of anxiety concerning the accuracy and equity of judgement. ’56 We know how heavy the penalties imposed by the so-called ‘bloody code’ were and a good many of the criminals that Detection before Detection 35 the Calendar portrays inevitably end their life on the gallows.
21 Charlemont rationalises his dream as the combination of the violent impression caused by the blood he has seen on the battlefield and the beloved memory of his father. It is the ghost himself that disperses these doubts, by appearing again – no longer in the inner space of the mind, but as a visible entity, causing a soldier to flee in terror. Here the word of the ghost is proved by repetition and by an experience that transcends subjectivity – two criteria that do not satisfy Hamlet. Charlemont returns to Paris, but when he is about to kill the perfidious D’Amville, the ghost of his father stays his hand, reasserting that revenge belongs to God.
After unsuccessfully attempting to have her sister poisoned by her maid and after killing this dangerous accessory, the perfidious Catalina obtains her sister’s forgiveness, but God’s judgement is relentless. Thus, while on board a coach that is driving her to church, Catalina is struck by lightning: but see the providence & justice of God, how it surprizeth & overtakes this wretched Gentlewoman Catalina! 35 As a result, Catalina’s body is blackened from her waist up. Her guilt is thus revealed to everybody, but this supernatural punishment leaves her sufficient respite to confess her sins and redeem herself before dying.