This week we presented to the group the research we had each done on the theme of the commercialisation of crime.
Following on from research focusing on Jack the Ripper, we discussed how the tabloid press and the “penny press” contributed to the construction of an image of the killer in the public imagination. We looked at sources that we could use to expand on this theme such as contemporary illustrations from the Illustrated Police News and stories from the online Digital Panopticon. We considered how new technology that made the reproduction of images cheaper and easier contributed to a greater public interest in crime or whether this new ability of the press prompted an increased interest.
Further to this, we discussed the more social factors that influenced the commercialisation of crime as it originated in the 19th century and how crime is often used conceptually as an embodiment of broader moral and social panics. If we decide to focus on this aspect of the topic, other possible examples we could look at include the garrotting scares and Maiden Tribute child prostitution fears. As part of this, we also considered how Victorian crime is inherently linked to ideas of the urban and how this theme might permeate through more modern interpretations of figures such as Jack the Ripper. From this, we considered how we might use the lens of Comparative Literature to consider to what extent our understanding of the commercialisation of crime is product of Western of crime fiction and how these are different to other non-Anglo-American forms of crime/detective fiction.
As an alternative focus we considered using the work of the cultural theorist Jean Baudrillard as a framing device for our analysis. We considered using his ideas on the connection between consumerism and crime to enable us to look more theoretically at the basis of the commercialisation of crime and not limit our project to one particular crime. This framework would allow us look more widely at how the commercialisation of crime functions in culture and wider society.
From this discussion we then collated a list of more specific topics for our presentation on the commercialisation of crime. This list included the sensationalist press, media as platform, serial killers, detective fiction, police, developments in technology, morality and Baudrillard. Next week we plan to continue refining our ideas and begin developing a research question for the presentation.