Guilty but Insane?
Psychiatric Detectives in the “Golden Age”
Samantha Walton, University of Edinburgh
[email protected]
Introduction
i.
The “Golden Age” of English crime
fiction – approximately 1920-1945
ii.
Major writers: Marjorie Allingham,
Christiana Brand, Agatha Christie,
Gladys Mitchell, Josephine Tey,
Dorothy L. Sayers, et al.
Introduction
i.
ii.
iii.
The murderer
The detective
The resolution
Introduction
– The murderer
Introduction
– The murderer
Introduction
‘‘
– The detective
[…] the scene of the crime contains a diversity of clues, of
meaningless scattered details with no obvious pattern […] and the
detective, solely by means of his presence, guarantees that all of
these details will retroactively acquire meaning […]
’’
Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry: An
Introduction to Jacques Lacan through
Popular Culture (1991)
Introduction
‘‘
– The detective
His goal is to explain an event that seems to be inexplicable to
everyone else. At stake is not just the identification of a dead
victim or an unknown suspect, but the demonstration of the power
invested in certain forensic devices embodied in the figure of the
literary detective.
’’
Ronald R. Thomas
Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic
Science (1999)
Introduction
– The resolution
Introduction
Susan Rowland,
From Agatha
Christie to Ruth
Rendell (2001)
‘‘
– The resolution
[…] a genre depicting the healing of society
through a redemptive detecting figure […]
’’
Introduction
Stephen Knight,
The Cambridge
Companion to
Crime Fiction
(2003)
‘‘
– The resolution
[…] a process of exorcising the threats that […]
society nervously anticipates within its own
membership […]
’’
Introduction
– The resolution – “fair play”
i.
All the clues have been shared with the
reader
ii.
Detective solves the crime through
clear reasoning, not guesswork or
chance
i. The Detective
– Three psychiatric detectives
Agatha
Christie
Gladys
Mitchell
Dorothy
L. Sayers
Hercule
Poirot
Mrs.
Bradley
Lord Peter
Wimsey
i. The Detective
‘‘
– Agatha Christie’s Poirot
‘I would like,’ said Hercule Poirot, ‘to converse – very often
– very frequently, with members of the family.’
‘You mean you’d like to have another shot at questioning
them?’ asked the colonel, a little puzzled.
‘No, no, not to question – to converse!’
‘Why?’ asked Sugden.
Hercule Poirot waved an emphatic hand.
‘In conversation, points arise! If a human being converses
much, it is impossible for him to avoid the truth!’
’’
Poirot’s
“Talking Cure”
Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
(1939)
i. The Detective
– Agatha Christie’s Poirot
i.
Poirot requires traditional clues, e.g.
objects, alibis.
ii.
But their significance is organised by
Poirot’s psychiatric orientation.
iii.
Poirot considers this orientation to be
both ‘new’ and ‘old’ – and in its ‘old’
incarnation, it is characteristically
feminine.
i. The Detective
‘‘
– Agatha Christie’s Poirot
‘Les femmes,’ generalised Poirot. ‘[…] They invent haphazard –
and by miracle they are right. Not that it is that really. Women
observe subconsciously a thousand little details, without really
knowing that they are doing so. Their subconscious mind adds
all these little things together – and they call the result
intuition.’
’’
Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926)
i. The Detective
– Dorothy L. Sayer’s Wimsey
i. The Detective
‘‘
– Dorothy L. Sayer’s Wimsey
And then it happened – the thing he had been half
unconsciously expecting […] He remembered – not one thing,
not another thing, nor a logical succession of things, but
everything – the whole thing, perfect, complete, in all its
dimensions as it were and instantaneously […] He no longer
needed to reason about it, or even to think about it. He knew
it.
’’
Dorothy L. Sayers
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (date)
i. The Detective
i.
ii.
‘‘
– Gladys Mitchell’s Bradley
Mrs. (later Dame) Beatrice Adela LeStrange Bradley
A professional government psychologist
In psycho-analysis the patient assists with his conscious efforts
to combat his resistance, because he expects to gain
something from the investigation, namely, his recovery. The
criminal, on the other hand, does not work with you; if he did,
he would be working against his whole ego.
’’
Sigmund Freud,
Psycho-analysis and the establishment of
the facts in legal proceedings
ii. The Murderer
Gladys Mitchell
St. Peter’s Finger (1938)
ii. The Murderer
‘‘
– Gladys Mitchell’s Ulrica
‘The child, brought up without positive religious beliefs, was always
in a state of mental conflict, for she could never reconcile her early
training with her later religious ecstasies. All adolescents are at war
within themselves, but in this child the fight was terrible enough to
overwhelm her. Somehow, she had to rehabilitate herself in the
eyes of God. Somehow, the family fortune had to go to the Church.
That was how she saw it. She had to expiate, somehow, the terrible
sin of her father’s atheism […]’
’’
Gladys Mitchell
St. Peter’s Finger (1938)
ii. The Murderer
– The “Raving Lunatic”
Bertha Mason tears Jane’s dress – Jane Eyre,
1847, F.H. Townsend
ii. The Murderer
Repression
partial =
complete = healthy
pathological
Libidinal attachment
to the self
= pathological
to the other
= normal
ii. The Murderer
‘‘
[…] the mental factors which produce the characteristic
behaviour of the neurotic and the lunatic are at work in the
‘normal’ mind and give rise to many well-known traits of
‘normal’ behaviour, as well as to behaviour and conduct which
we may not care to call ‘normal,’ but which certainly fall far
short of anything for which the help of a physician would be
sought […]
’’
A.G. Tansley, The New Psychology
(1920)
ii. The Murderer
– Some examples . . .
i.
Automatism – Margery Allingham, Police at the
Funeral (1931)
ii.
Hysteria – Gladys Mitchell, When Last I Died (1938);
Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night (1935)
iii.
Kleptomania – Agatha Christie, The Affair of the Pink
Pearl (1929)
iv.
Oedipal Complex – Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot’s
Christmas (1929)
v.
Paranoia – Agatha Christie, And Then There Were
None (1939)
vi.
Psyschosis – Christiana Brand, Heads You Lose (1941)
iii. The Resolution
iii. The Resolution
‘‘
[…] at the time of committing the act the accused was
labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the
mind, as to not to know the nature and quality of the act he
was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did not know what he
was doing was wrong […]
’’
M’Naghten / McNaughten Rules,
from ‘The Definition Of
Insanity,’ The British Medical
Journal (1921)
iii. The Resolution
‘‘
Unsoundness of mind is no longer regarded as in essence a
disorder of the intellectual or cognitive faculties. The modern
view is that it is something much more profoundly related to
the whole organism - a morbid change in the emotional and
instinctive activities, with or without intellectual derangement.
“Criminal Responsibility,” Report
by Lord Justice Atkin’s
Committee (1923)
’’
iii. The Resolution
‘‘
‘She will never commit another crime.’
’’
Gladys Mitchell
St. Peter’s Finger (1938)
iii. The Resolution
i.
Christianna Brand's Green for Danger
(1945)
iii. The Resolution
‘‘
[…] at the time of committing the act the accused was
labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the
mind, as to not to know the nature and quality of the act he
was doing, or, if he did know it, that he did not know what
he was doing was wrong […]
’’
M’Naghten / McNaughten Rules,
from ‘The Definition Of
Insanity,’ The British Medical
Journal (1921)
iii. The Resolution
‘‘
All you, doctors and nurses – isn’t there anything you can do?
[…] As they remained unmoving, standing in a silent ring,
looking down sadly at the body, he flung himself across her
and began clumsily to try to revive her himself […]
‘‘
’’
‘This is your doing. You did this!
You wanted her to die.’
‘How could we have borne
anything else, Inspector?’
’’
Christiana Brand,
Green for Danger
(1945)
Conclusion
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