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Purpose – To propose a radically new way to understand the science of Cesare Lombroso, the first scientific criminologist, and thus to broaden understanding of the origins…
Purpose – To propose a radically new way to understand the science of Cesare Lombroso, the first scientific criminologist, and thus to broaden understanding of the origins of criminology.
Approach – Using both comparative and analytical methods, we locate Lombroso's science of criminal anthropology in the context of late nineteenth-century Gothicism.
Findings – Lombroso's born criminals were Gothic creations, holdovers (like the crumbling castles of Gothic novels) from an earlier, less civilized period, human gargoyles (like the characters of Gothic romances) redolent of death and the uncanny. Moreover, Lombroso's Gothic science, with its depictions of physically and psychologically abnormal criminals, contributed to a transformation in social control by scientifically legitimating the social exclusion and intensified control of those perceived as morally monstrous.
Originality and value – This study creates a new framework for understanding Lombroso's contributions to criminological science and social control. Moreover, in a way that is almost unique in criminology, it combines historical research in literature and art with the history of science.
Research implications – To a degree not usually recognized, a science and its social control ramifications can be shaped by the artistic sensibilities and cultural traditions of the period in which it develops.
Crime and social control present important issues that move and affect large segments of society. Whether we consider the impact of criminal events in terms of victimization, the construction of deviance into criminalized acts, or the many socially relevant aspects related to criminal justice policies and other social control activities, crime and justice are matters that deserve our most serious attention. It is largely for this reason that scholars develop astute theoretical models and sophisticated methodologies to study crime and social control in their many significant components. Yet, the world of popular culture, which we tend to associate with playfulness and fun, has also embraced themes related to crime and its control. It is perhaps a sign of the very earnestness associated with crime and social control that these themes are also dealt with in the social institutions of entertainment. The study of such portrayals of crime and criminal justice in popular culture is the focus of the present volume.