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The UK's premier new media criminologist - on Twitter @criminology4u, facebook and blogging on Criminology in Public and Sports Criminology.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gothic Criminology: a rambling intro (as befits the subject) and some thoughts on the dark side of the dark side

This picture is of an interior at Strawberry Hill House.  Here is some introductory material from their website.

Created by Horace Walpole in the 18th century, Strawberry Hill is internationally famous as Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic revival architecture. It also inspired the first gothic novel The Castle of Otranto.

The Castle of Otranto suggests a gloomier place than the current exterior of the House shows.  The picture below left taken was during the restoration and that on the right more recently.  The House is in the grounds of my University and we used to use the rooms for meetings and events. Its shabbiness adding to the effect.  Our remaining access is to the Senior Common Room and Waldegrave Drawing Room.

I may work at St Mary’s University College but have yet to read the Castle of Otranto.  Most of my knowledge of the gothic comes from Jane Austen’s parody Northanger Abbey, popular culture and Goth sub-culture.

Strawberry Hill House can be seen in the bottom left hand corner of this picture from the college website.

I identify as criminologist (with all the baggage that brings) but teach squarely within a sociology programme.  In my teaching I point out that criminology may have a history but not a neat and tidy time line or chronology.  In popular, if not academic, criminology its not so much the ‘return of the repressed’ but a general failure to kill off any theory, to repress or suppress it.  No sooner than you think you’ve screwed down the coffin lid it rises zombie/vampire like (forgive me if I’m mixing my genres - must talk to my Screen Media and English colleagues).

Within criminology there is a difficulty of where to start on ‘our’ history.  With the pre-modern, theocratic, demonological, ‘common-sensical’ criminology (all refusing to be killed off) of ‘evil’ or ‘possession’ and extremes of violence by offenders and the Authorities (local, religious, monarchical or State)?  Or the Enlightenment, the Classical, the rationality of which informs the Law (it and neo-classical versions too have their ongoing life)? Or yet with the ‘father’ of criminology Cesare Lombroso (whose gruesome collection of criminal skins - for their tattoos has been called gothic)?

I know that there are a number of books and articles about Gothic Criminology and these are listed below.  But the main focus of those items is that the subject matter of criminology is Gothic.  Gonzalez even speaks of crypto-criminology (Crypto-criminology refers to the dark, devious and dangerous side of human nature.)

My contention is that the subject itself is Gothic.  Some of its practitioners might see themselves as Classicists.  It is this commonly used reference to Classicism architectural metaphor for crime control - or a criminology that supports/houses it - and the surroundings of Strawberry Hill that lead me in lectures to call most criminology Gothic.  Not only the early, ‘medieval’ or barbaric but the very convoluted structure of the discipline with its left and right Wings and very ‘sub’ basement.

This blog signals my intention to engage more fully with this for presentation as a paper at a Conference this year.

Blackwell’s Online Reference on ‘Crime and the Gothic
Picart Caroline Joan and Greek Cecil THE COMPULSION OF REAL/REEL SERIAL KILLERS AND VAMPIRES: TOWARD A GOTHIC CRIMINOLOGY 2003 School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany Journal of Criminal Justice and Popular Culture, 10 (1): 39-68
Picart Caroline Joan (Kay) and Greek Cecil (eds) (2004) Monsters In and Among Us: towards a Gothic Criminology Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
Rafter Nicole, Ystehede Per (2010), Here be dragons: Lombroso, the gothic, and social control, in Mathieu Deflem (ed.) Popular Culture, Crime and Social Control (Sociology of Crime Law and Deviance, Volume 14), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.263-284


Anonymous said...

The images dont seem to be working

nic groombridge said...

Ta Kevin

working on it