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Book Chapter

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Functions of the Fantastic: Selected Essays from the Thirteenth International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts


Much has been written on the subject of genius and neurosis, and psychobiographies of the artistic personality are numerous; however, literature on the artist as criminal is scarce. In real life, there are probably no artists who murder for their art or whose art is murder. In literature, such figures are also relatively rare. There are, however, several fictional artists with psychopathic disorders that cause them to murder. E.T.A. Hoffmann's Cardillac in Das Fraulein von Scuderi is a goldsmith in seventeenth-century Paris who kills the recipients of the jewelry he creates. Loder in "The Abominable History of the Man with Copper Fingers" by Dorothy Sayers is a sculptor who bronzes his mistress and incorporates the statue into the settee in his living room. Grenouille in Patrick Suskind's Perfume, who has learned the art of perfume-making (maceration and enfleurage), extracting essential oils from flowers to distill their fragrance, transposes this art to the human realm, murdering two dozen nubile young women to extract the virginal essence of their smell in order to make others love him and exalt him above God. Jame Gumb, a serial killer like Cardillac and Grenouille, artfully skins the women he murders in The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Ernesto Sábato's Juan Pablo Castel is a painter, whose first-person narrative in The Tunnel relates how he came to kill Maria, his mistress and the only person to understand him.

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This book chapter was published in:

Borchardt, Edith. "Criminal Artists and Artisans in Mysteries by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Dorothy Sayers, Ernesto Sábato, Patrick Süskind, and Thomas Harris." Functions of the Fantastic. Ed. Joe Sanders. London: Greenwood Press, 1995. 125-134.

It is posted here with permission from the publisher.

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Book Chapter