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Guilty but Insane? Psychiatric Detectives in the “Golden Age” Samantha Walton, University of Edinburgh

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Presentation on theme: "Guilty but Insane? Psychiatric Detectives in the “Golden Age” Samantha Walton, University of Edinburgh"— Presentation transcript:

1 Guilty but Insane? Psychiatric Detectives in the “Golden Age” Samantha Walton, University of Edinburgh

2 Introduction i. The “Golden Age” of English crime fiction – approximately ii. Major writers: Marjorie Allingham, Christiana Brand, Agatha Christie, Gladys Mitchell, Josephine Tey, Dorothy L. Sayers, et al.

3 Introduction i. The murderer ii. The detective iii. The resolution

4 Introduction – The murderer

5

6 […] the scene of the crime contains a diversity of clues, of meaningless scattered details with no obvious pattern […] and the detective, solely by means of his presence, guarantees that all of these details will retroactively acquire meaning […] ‘‘ ’’ Introduction – The detective Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture (1991)

7 Introduction – The detective His goal is to explain an event that seems to be inexplicable to everyone else. At stake is not just the identification of a dead victim or an unknown suspect, but the demonstration of the power invested in certain forensic devices embodied in the figure of the literary detective. ‘‘ ’’ Ronald R. Thomas Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science (1999)

8 Introduction – The resolution

9 […] a genre depicting the healing of society through a redemptive detecting figure […] ‘‘ ’’ Susan Rowland, From Agatha Christie to Ruth Rendell (2001) Introduction – The resolution

10 […] a process of exorcising the threats that […] society nervously anticipates within its own membership […] ‘‘ ’’ Stephen Knight, The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction (2003) Introduction – The resolution

11 Introduction – The resolution – “fair play” i. All the clues have been shared with the reader ii. Detective solves the crime through clear reasoning, not guesswork or chance

12 i.The Detective – Three psychiatric detectives Hercule Poirot Mrs. Bradley Lord Peter Wimsey Agatha Christie Gladys Mitchell Dorothy L. Sayers

13 i.The Detective – Agatha Christie’s Poirot ‘I would like,’ said Hercule Poirot, ‘to converse – very often – very frequently, with members of the family.’ ‘You mean you’d like to have another shot at questioning them?’ asked the colonel, a little puzzled. ‘No, no, not to question – to converse!’ ‘Why?’ asked Sugden. Hercule Poirot waved an emphatic hand. ‘In conversation, points arise! If a human being converses much, it is impossible for him to avoid the truth!’ ‘‘ ’’ Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1939) Poirot’s “Talking Cure”

14 i.The Detective – Agatha Christie’s Poirot i. Poirot requires traditional clues, e.g. objects, alibis. ii. But their significance is organised by Poirot’s psychiatric orientation. iii. Poirot considers this orientation to be both ‘new’ and ‘old’ – and in its ‘old’ incarnation, it is characteristically feminine.

15 i.The Detective – Agatha Christie’s Poirot ‘Les femmes,’ generalised Poirot. ‘ […] They invent haphazard – and by miracle they are right. Not that it is that really. Women observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without really knowing that they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds all these little things together – and they call the result intuition.’ ‘‘ ’’ Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)

16 i.The Detective – Dorothy L. Sayer’s Wimsey

17 And then it happened – the thing he had been half unconsciously expecting […] He remembered – not one thing, not another thing, nor a logical succession of things, but everything – the whole thing, perfect, complete, in all its dimensions as it were and instantaneously […] He no longer needed to reason about it, or even to think about it. He knew it. ‘‘ ’’ Dorothy L. Sayers The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (date)

18 i.The Detective – Gladys Mitchell’s Bradley i. Mrs. (later Dame) Beatrice Adela LeStrange Bradley ii. A professional government psychologist In psycho-analysis the patient assists with his conscious efforts to combat his resistance, because he expects to gain something from the investigation, namely, his recovery. The criminal, on the other hand, does not work with you; if he did, he would be working against his whole ego. ‘‘ ’’ Sigmund Freud, Psycho-analysis and the establishment of the facts in legal proceedings

19 ii. The Murderer Gladys Mitchell St. Peter’s Finger (1938)

20 ii. The Murderer – Gladys Mitchell’s Ulrica Gladys Mitchell St. Peter’s Finger (1938) ‘The child, brought up without positive religious beliefs, was always in a state of mental conflict, for she could never reconcile her early training with her later religious ecstasies. All adolescents are at war within themselves, but in this child the fight was terrible enough to overwhelm her. Somehow, she had to rehabilitate herself in the eyes of God. Somehow, the family fortune had to go to the Church. That was how she saw it. She had to expiate, somehow, the terrible sin of her father’s atheism […] ’ ’’ ‘‘

21 ii. The Murderer – The “Raving Lunatic” Bertha Mason tears Jane’s dress – Jane Eyre, 1847, F.H. Townsend

22 ii. The Murderer Repression complete = healthy partial = pathological Libidinal attachment to the other = normal to the self = pathological

23 ii. The Murderer […] the mental factors which produce the characteristic behaviour of the neurotic and the lunatic are at work in the ‘normal’ mind and give rise to many well-known traits of ‘normal’ behaviour, as well as to behaviour and conduct which we may not care to call ‘normal,’ but which certainly fall far short of anything for which the help of a physician would be sought […] ‘‘ ’’ A.G. Tansley, The New Psychology (1920)

24 ii. The Murderer – Some examples... i. Automatism – Margery Allingham, Police at the Funeral (1931) ii. Hysteria – Gladys Mitchell, When Last I Died (1938); Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935) iii. Kleptomania – Agatha Christie, The Affair of the Pink Pearl (1929) iv. Oedipal Complex – Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1929) v. Paranoia – Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None (1939) vi. Psyschosis – Christiana Brand, Heads You Lose (1941)

25 iii. The Resolution

26 […] at the time of committing the act the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as to not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong […] ‘‘ ’’ M’Naghten / McNaughten Rules, from ‘The Definition Of Insanity,’ The British Medical Journal (1921)

27 iii. The Resolution Unsoundness of mind is no longer regarded as in essence a disorder of the intellectual or cognitive faculties. The modern view is that it is something much more profoundly related to the whole organism - a morbid change in the emotional and instinctive activities, with or without intellectual derangement. ‘‘ ’’ “Criminal Responsibility,” Report by Lord Justice Atkin’s Committee (1923)

28 iii. The Resolution ‘She will never commit another crime.’ ‘‘’’ Gladys Mitchell St. Peter’s Finger (1938)

29 iii. The Resolution i. Christianna Brand's Green for Danger (1945)

30 iii. The Resolution […] at the time of committing the act the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as to not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong […] ‘‘ ’’ M’Naghten / McNaughten Rules, from ‘The Definition Of Insanity,’ The British Medical Journal (1921)

31 iii. The Resolution All you, doctors and nurses – isn’t there anything you can do? […] As they remained unmoving, standing in a silent ring, looking down sadly at the body, he flung himself across her and began clumsily to try to revive her himself […] ‘‘ ’’ Christiana Brand, Green for Danger (1945) ‘‘ ‘This is your doing. You did this! You wanted her to die.’ ‘How could we have borne anything else, Inspector?’ ’’

32 Conclusion


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