Women and Crime in the Street Literature of Early Modern by Sandra Clark (auth.)

By Sandra Clark (auth.)

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There is sometimes an acknowledgement of the approximate nature of the reporting of such speech: ‘[He] would use these, or the like wordes’ (Two horrible and inhumaine Murthers done in Lincolneshire, by two Husbands upon their Wiues (1604), p. 5). Edmond Bower, however, in Doctor Lamb revived, or, Witchcraft condemn’d in Anne Bodenham (1653), states in his conclusion that ‘I obliged my self in my undertakings to use the same words and expressions as both the Witch and Maid used, and have not made them speak my words in this relation’ (p.

He describes this element as follows: The relationship of the pamphlets to their subject-matter was not merely edificational or admonitory, it was rather exploitative, indeed, in some sense, pornographic. Examples of extreme violence, sexual license, outlandish and disgusting acts were presented to the reader, ostensibly for his or her moral instruction, but, in fact, in order not merely to edify but also to shock, titillate and engender that frisson of horror laced with disapproval which allows both pleasure and excitement at the enormities described to be combined with a reconfirmed sense of the reader’s own moral superiority.

137 These extremes in the handling of speech demonstrate the wide discursive range of crime news pamphlets. It would be tempting to construct a spectrum of reporting techniques, which locates the factual account of the crime, its investigation, the trial and the outcome, at one end, and the moralised exemplum, with its demonstration of divine intervention in human affairs, at the other. But such a schematisation would be misleading, for two reasons. The factual and the exemplary/didactic can, as demonstrated, coexist within a single narrative, and there is a third component which enters into, and complicates, both modes.

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