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 resembling revenge tragedies, the gothic and anarchist fiction, whereas bearing in mind the impact of pseudo-sciences equivalent to mesmerism and legal anthropology.
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Additional resources for A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational
Reynolds’s collection is particularly revealing in this respect, for in order to enhance the tragic appeal of his stories, the author repeatedly relied on the most hateful homicides – those treacherously happening within the domestic sphere, including parricide and infanticide. While murder was associated with the sublime dimension of tragedy, theft, cozenage and other minor crimes were regarded as closer to lower genres – such as comedy and the picaresque – and recur in various kinds of popular literature that anatomise the underworld, exploiting the sensational appeal of misdemeanours.
15 Kyd’s prologue exemplifies the syncretism of Renaissance dramatists, who skilfully blended Christian values and classical figures or loci, often to avoid censorship, notably when tackling religious matters. Moreover, while the prologue firmly establishes the rightful nature of the ghost’s complaint, false dreams occur in the Portuguese subplot of the play, which Detection before Detection 23 dramatises the danger of taking revenge on the wrong person. In the scenes set at the Portuguese court, the Viceroy’s dreams – apparently revealing the death of his son, but actually embodying his anxiety – temporarily support Villuppo’s untruthful version of the facts, perfidiously pointing to Alexandro as a traitor who has killed Balthazar from behind.
In a recent book, Heather Worthington analysed the serial investigating figures of professionals – such as physicians, barristers and attorneys – who prepared the way for the detective proper, also in relation to the development of the New Metropolitan Police (1829) and the Detective Police (1842). As Worthington remarks, Samuel Warren’s ‘Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician’ (Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 1830–37) inaugurated the ‘case structure’71 that would typify later detective fiction.
A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensational by Maurizio Ascari