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L’Acte inqualifiable, ou le meurtre au féminin / Unspeakable Acts: Murder by Women

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Edited By Émeline Jouve, Aurélie Guillain and Laurence Talairach-Vielmas

Qu’elle soit appelée meurtrière, assassine ou tueuse, la femme qui commet un homicide élude les catégories usuelles : elle dérange l’ordre social, bouleverse les rapports de forces symboliques et inquiète les dispositifs judiciaires. Cet ouvrage collectif bilingue (français et anglais) interroge la manière dont l’écriture ou la réécriture du meurtre au féminin contribue à façonner et à problématiser la mémoire collective de ces affaires criminelles qui font figure d’exception.

Female murderers often elude firmly established categories as they disrupt the social and symbolic orders of patriarchal societies and call into question the well-oiled mechanisms of their legal systems. This collection of essays (in French and in English) examines the making of narratives that have staged actual or fictional female murderers, influencing the ways in which these women are collectively remembered – narratives that often lay bare the covert foundations of the indictment process.

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‘A traitress, and a dear’ : The Paradoxes of Women and Forensic Rhetoric in Early Modern Drama

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‘A traitress, and a dear’

The Paradoxes of Women and Forensic Rhetoric in Early Modern Drama

Yan BRAILOWSKY

Television shows and movies portraying the workings of the law have made forensic science a much sought-after career. The humanities, on the other hand, continue to be portrayed as a dead end by the media and mainstream politicians. In this essay, I would like to discuss the manner in which forensic rhetoric (as distinct from forensic science) was used and represented onstage in early modern English drama, particularly in cases involving murderesses. This is not to belittle the use of science in determining these women’s guilt or innocence; rather, it is a way to recapture the manner in which language was used to describe the world and make sense of facts in such a way that allowed a judge or jury to reach its verdict. Despite modern society’s obsession with science, one could argue that even today’s audiences willingly recognize that a court of law can be a dramatic setting in which rhetorical skill is as important as arcane knowledge of legal technicalities, as suggested by what may happen in court, with its tales of murder and mayhem, dramatic revelations or poignant confessions.

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