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Murderesses in German Writing, 1720–1860


  • Page extent: 276 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.58 kg

Library of Congress

  • Dewey number: 364.152/30820943
  • Dewey version: 22
  • LC Classification: HV6517 .K67 2009
  • LC Subject headings:
    • Women murderers--Case studies
    • Murder in literature
    • German literature--18th century--History and criticism
    • German literature--19th century--History and criticism

Library of Congress Record


 (ISBN-13: 9780521519779)

The way deviant women - murderesses, witches, vampires - are perceived and represented reveals much about what a society considers the norm for acceptable female behaviour. Drawing on extensive archival records and published texts, Susanne Kord investigates the stories of eight famous murderesses in Germany as they were told in legal, psychological, philosophical and literary writings. Kord interrogates the role of representation in legal judgment and the way the emancipation of women was perceived to be linked to their crimes. She demonstrates how perceptions of normal and criminal women permeated not only legal thought but also seemingly unrelated cultural spheres - from poetry, philosophy and physiognomy to early psychological profiling. A major work of German cultural history, this highly original book raises thought-provoking questions about eighteenth- and nineteenth-century gender norms in ways that continue to resonate today.

• An interdisciplinary study examining representations of gender in literature and in German culture • Explores eight real-life murder or suspected witchcraft cases in detail • Opens up new ways to study gender, violence and law in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Germany


1. Criminal women: on bodies, paradoxes, performances and tales; 2. The evil eye: witches; 3. The plague: vampires; 4. Pride: husband-killers; 5. Shame: child-killers; 6. The female self: poisoners; 7. The end: the etiquette of execution; Works cited; Index.


'Susanne Kord offers concise, thoughtful, and - in her treatment of scholarship - exceptionally masterful and stimulating insights into ideas about female deviance at the threshold of modernity. Her book inspires further discussion about the question to what extent modern penal systems can be understood as expressions of humaneness or rather … as internalizations of social, moral and gender-constituting codes that should be resisted to this day.' Dr Achim Saupe, Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam

'Kord's rigorously researched and accessibly written study raises important questions about gender norms and elevates a deeply controversial topic to the level of serious academic debate.' Waltraud Maierhofer, University of Iowa

'Kord's vivid writing style enhances the book's appeal … This book is a notable exploration of the revealing underside of modern European culture.' H-Net Reviews

'Susanne Kord has written a fascinating and important book that deserves to be read by literary scholars and historians alike. It is a major achievement.' Joachim Whaley, Modern Language Review

'… a useful contribution to the socio-cultural history of women and crime …' Monatshefte

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