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Picture of Merry Murderers

Merry Murderers

The Farcical (Re)Figuration of the Femme Fatale in Maurine Dallas Watkins’ Chicago (1927) and its Various Adaptations

Author(s): Zsófia Anna Tóth

Book Description

This book explores the different trends and the various changes in the representational history of femmes fatales within twentieth century American culture. While providing precedents, discussing the Western cultural history of this iconic female figure, as well as presenting the cultural and theoretical debates surrounding ‘her,’ the major focus lies in Maurine Dallas Watkins’s story entitled Chicago and how its diachronic and transmedial revivals contributed to this debate and what kind of an interpretation it provided of the lethal woman. Through a cultural, historical, literary and cinematic excavation this book argues that the story of Chicago produces a unique kind of deathly woman figure: the farcical femme fatale by combining the traditionally tragic aspects with comic modes of discourse and (re)presentation. In addition to the theorization of the femme fatale within Western culture, the discussion of the comic as well as various comic genres and comic strategies of representation, Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the carnival and the carnivalesque is discussed in great detail – with an emphasis on scapegoating – as well as Judith Butler’s concept of gender performativity and Joan Riviere’s womanly masquerade in order to understand how the farcical femmes fatales of Chicago manage to get away with their sins and crimes. Additionally, the Vice of sixteenth century drama as well as the figure of the homme fatale are also taken under scrutiny since it is argued that, in the various versions of Chicago, we encounter farcical femmes fatales who are the minions of a modern(ized) Vice figure, and all their comic-grotesque performances and masquerades take place in the heterotopic space of the carnival. While also examining their historical and cultural contexts, the different versions of Chicago are investigated one by one starting from the original Chicago Tribune articles and ending in the 2002 film adaptation. This book reveals what strategies can be employed to justify the modification of the traditionally tragic scenario of the femme fatale. It is a scholarly work that is informative, thorough as well as entertaining.

Hardback

ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-3171-0
ISBN-10: 1-4438-3171-9
Date of Publication: 01/09/2011
Pages / Size: 290 / A5
Price: £39.99
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Biography

Zsófia Anna Tóth received her PhD in British and American literature and culture from the University of Szeged, Hungary, and is currently a Research Fellow at the Department of Library and Human Information Science, University of Szeged. Her general research interests are film studies, cultural studies, gender studies, literary theory, American literature and American cinema. Her main research field is concerned with the representation of female aggression and violence in American literature and film. Her other two main fields of interest include Jane Austen (her works, their adaptations as well as her legacy, and her ‘afterlife’) and the emergence of New Woman – her representation and historical, cultural reception (academic and otherwise).