Jack the Ripper Narrative

  • Jane Monckton Smith


When writing of the death of Joan of Arc, Thomas De Quincey (1847) declared that despite the female gender failing to distinguish themselves in the arts and history, there was one thing they could do that surpassed even the achievements of the Masters; women could ‘die grandly’, as grandly as any man. Certainly the violent death of females has been a staple of cinema and television over the last century especially at the hands of psychotic strangers or mythic monsters, giving many of the victims ever more graphically eroticized deaths which are perversely grand. These murders are often highly sexualized and it is a convention that most female victims will be young and/or attractive; film director Dario Argento states: ‘I like women especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man’, and Schoell a film historian notes: ‘Other filmmakers figured that the only thing better than one beautiful woman being gruesomely murdered was a whole series of beautiful women being gruesomely murdered’ (cited in Clover 1992:32). These comments reveal that in the years since De Quincey’s declaration, female death retains its potential to distinguish the victim allowing her to die spectacularly. But it is a feminized death; it is a death closely associated with another form of feminized trauma, the trauma of rape, and in certain contexts in film, not only are murder and rape concomitants, they are conflated.


Female Victim Sexual Motivation Dominant Discourse Sexual Fantasy Serial Killer 
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Copyright information

© Jane Monckton Smith 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane Monckton Smith
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Natural and Social SciencesUniversity of GloucestershireUK

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