Crime & Concealment
Preface by Abby Bentham & Teresa Cutler-Broyles
In every act of or desire for the concealment of a crime lies the core of its opposite, the desire for or fear of revelation. This tension, between concealment and revelation, is at the centre of how we understand what crime, in fact, is. It is also what makes the sixth edition of HARTS & Minds, ‘Crime and Concealment’, so rich in both content and conception.
As we worked through the varied submissions of articles, poetry, short prose, and reviews published below we asked ourselves: can a thing that does not need to be concealed be considered a crime? And conversely, if one conceals something – consciously or un/subconsciously – is that thing by definition, criminal? And over the broad range of concepts, historical moments, real murders, literary, filmic, and theatrical presentations of crimes, is an overarching question: when does criminal activity become (sometimes macabre but always potential) entertainment?
We invite you to dive into the world of ‘Crime and Concealment’ – and ultimately of revelation – and answer those questions for yourself.
The superb articles in this collection are so wide-ranging that at first it was difficult to find the connections beyond the over-arching theme. It wasn’t until we realised that the connections were not necessarily in the subject matter but in the space between the crime and the concealment of it that we were able to find the thread that runs through them all. That thread is not of a kind of crime, nor of a particular way of concealing the same; rather, it is the concept that holds both of those at once, and emerges into our awareness as a kind of third subject – the reveal.
Our three sections, ‘Crime: Searching for the Other’, ‘Concealment: Gender and Sexuality’, and ‘Concealing and Revealing the Past’ are somewhat fluid categories, merging one into the other as the articles within them encapsulate elements of actual crime with explorations of conceptual absence, explorations of evil with examinations of portrayals of victims, and examinations of history with elisions of memory. All three of these categories assume a strong connection between crime and the desire to conceal. Furthermore, they explore what happens when that hidden aspect is teased apart, revealing an often victimised subject – but just as often a subject who takes pleasure in the nature of both the crime and the concealing of it.
In our first section, ‘Crime: Searching for the Other’, Bernardo Bortolin Kerr examines evil as it runs through Baha’i theology specifically, and humankind in general, by way of The Act of Killing (2012), a film by Joshua Oppenheimer. In his article, Kerr addresses the possibility of redemption and re-humanisation, and in deft movements takes us from the specific to the broader world, implicating us as much as the perpetrators. When Kerr reaches his conclusion, it is a powerful moment that asks more of us than simply our attention: it demands something deeper, something more complex and, ultimately, something with the potential to transform. In ‘Constructing the Victim in Mass Media: The Rhetorical Effects of the Deserving/Undeserving Trope’, Kali Mobley examines the effect language has on our understanding of victimhood, and of criminality. Mobley discusses how, through the characterisation of crime victims, print media distorts identities by selectively concealing characteristics of victims, presenting fragmented wholes that fit, or create, reader expectations and beliefs. A compelling read, Mobley’s piece will give you a new appreciation of your own buy-in to the media manipulation we all must learn to recognise and subvert.
The next section, ‘Concealment: Gender and Sexuality’, explores all the aforementioned elements, but it does so in intriguing and unexpected ways. Serial killers and masculinity, female sexual desire, and the (sexual) appetites of a werewolf are highlighted, and each piece will chill as well as thrill. Micheal Kieser masterfully dissects the way Christian reading strategies are used as the means by which two characters in the twelfth-century tale Bisclavret understand the actions of the eponymous baron, who suffers from lycanthropy. Although outwardly a study in the nature of the soul and the animal appetites of the body, the tale also reflects contemporary strategies of legal and illegal manoeuvrings by French nobles, and Kieser demonstrates how the characters’ reading strategies give rise to questions about original text, dogma, and truth – often concealed, always twisted. In ‘Unmasking Female Desire in Hyper-reality in Eliza Haywood’s Fantomina’, Kyung-Hwa Eun explores the way feminine desire and power are manifested when freed from the constraint of the need to preserve reputation. Kyung-Hwa posits that in this eighteenth-century novel, Fantomina’s creation, a hyper-real world, is a concealed space in which she performs four different identities, and that that space allows for a subversion of normative patriarchy, in which female authority often threatens male desire, if for no other reason than because it unsettles and de-centres it. And in K. Charlie Oughton’s piece ‘Dining Out on Dahmer: Unstable Structural Violence in Serial Killer Celebrity Culture’, a number of filmic representations of American serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer are examined as a way of exploring the connection between celebrity culture’s creation of Dahmer-as-anti-hero, and the after-effects of violence. Differing representations of Dahmer and their connection to masculinity and celebrity status become the focus, and Dahmer’s true nature is never revealed.
The last section of articles, ‘Concealing and Revealing the Past’, takes us on a journey through time as we examine, in articles by Ilana Walder-Biesanz, Alice Levick, and Laura Webb, the effect of characters and events through the ages. Ilana Walder-Biesanz looks at Don Juan, perhaps the world’s most famous lover. Yet as fictional ‘hero’, his modus operandi is to murder, seduce, and rape. Using two historical plays written two hundred years apart, Walder-Biesanz discusses the influence of Christianity on the authors’ use of the concept of honour, giving us a nuanced view of how concepts of right and wrong, reflected often in theatrical and other works, change through time. In Levick’s ‘The Big Sleep, Uncanny Spaces, and Memory’, we travel to mid-twentieth-century Los Angeles by way of Raymond Chandler’s ‘labyrinthine Sternwood house, full of empty spaces and hidden compartments’. As rhetorical synecdoche for the city, and because it hides so much, this house reveals as much as it conceals. Weaving wilderness with city, Eden with evil, Levick pulls us under. In our final article, Laura Webb examines the idea of state terror and its relationship to memory. Webb uses accounts (that is, testimonies to violence) by post-generational authors, to demonstrate how memory is redefined by contemporary Argentine literature. Testimonial literature is a growing genre, a dubious testament to acts of horrific violence perpetrated on children and adults alike. Through an examination of Felix Bruzzone’s 2008 novel Los Topos, Webb helps us to understand how being a witness to violence is fraught with potential pitfalls as well as haunting profundity.
As well as our articles we are excited to present original fiction: a short prose piece by Melanie Hani that is inspired by her work at an institute for sex offenders, and Martin McKenna’s atmospheric poetry. Both pieces dive into a well of darkness from which there may not be an escape. Finally, we include reviews of the latest literature, theatre, conferences, and television and filmic depictions which relate to our theme. They look at subjects from abuse to serial murder; thoughtful insight to hard-hitting, hinted-at terror; loss and language. These works will pull you in and only reluctantly release you back into your sense of self.
Concealment. Crime. Revelation. Inextricably entwined, these concepts have come together in this, our sixth edition, to create a rich journal filled with insight and power. So enter at your own risk, and explore the depths at your own peril. And remember: it is through concealment that we come to know crime; but it is in revealing crime that we understand ourselves.