Strand 5: The Criminal Corpse in Pieces

Strand Researcher: Dr Shane McCorristine

British and Irish primary sources attest to the fascination which the criminal corpse in pieces exerted in both 'high' and 'low' literary cultures between 1750 and 1850. Building on recent interdisciplinary research into dismemberment as well as theoretical perspectives on relics and magical thinking, in Strand 5 Dr Shane McCorristine will place ideas about crime, superstition, and disembodiment within their historical context.

Strand 5 follows the criminal corpse as it travelled through high and low

Whitby Hand of Glory
Whitby Hand of Glory

cultures, and was disseminated in literary fiction. Eighteenth and nineteenth-century British fiction is full of criminal bodies in the form of punished corpses, vengeful ghosts, powerful relics and symbols of worldly debt. McCorristine builds on recent interdisciplinary research into dismemberment, as well as theoretical perspectives on relics, fetishism, and magical thinking, in order to look at how ideas about crime and superstition travelled from culture into literature and vice versa.  A thorough study of this kind has been lacking due to the diversity of sources, the interaction with folklore and popular culture, and historic disinclination for interdisciplinary approaches.

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