Cultural Constructions of the Femme Fatale: From Pandora’s by Stevie Simkin (auth.)

By Stevie Simkin (auth.)

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Extra info for Cultural Constructions of the Femme Fatale: From Pandora’s Box to Amanda Knox

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Once again we find society attempting to rationalise the violent woman, to make her ‘make sense’ when she seems to depart so radically from accepted notions of femininity. This study, then, is an interdisciplinary one which, via linked case studies, seeks to trace the figure of the femme fatale across a broad cultural map, utilising a range of related methodologies: analysis of cultural texts (literature, drama, film, TV), media and communication studies, psychology, and theories of crime and punishment.

Smith claimed that the arsenic had been used either to kill rats, or in heavily diluted form as a cosmetic. In the end, the prosecution was unable to establish an ‘unbroken chain’ of evidence against her. On 9 July, after only a half hour of deliberation, the jury returned its verdict: 2 believed her guilty, and 13 were undecided; consequently, the charge of murder was found ‘Not Proven’ – in other words, the jury felt there was insufficient evidence to convict her, although they did not believe the case made by the defence team had proven her innocence either.

29), and Mary S. Hartman suggests that high-profile trials like Madeleine Smith’s might have provided a ‘vicarious outlet’ for their frustrations: ‘The accused young women had acted out what the female spectators, in their most secret thoughts, had hardly dared to imagine’ (1977, p. 84). Once again, the significance of the principles of the crossover between the real and the fictive, and the notion of scripting and self-scripting, come into play. Famous trials were frequently outlined in magazines such as Temple Bar and Cornhill Magazine, and, as Mangham points out, ‘writers of fiction often drew on such non-fictional material to construct stories that had resonances for contemporary readers’, while, in a reciprocal process, crime reporters would use literary devices to capture their readers’ interest: ‘Melodramatic tableaux that one might associate with popular fiction became a useful way to market “factual” crime reports’ (2007, p.

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