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The Subject of MurderGender, Exceptionality, and the Modern Killer$
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Lisa Downing

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226003405

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226003689.001.0001

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The “Angel of Arsenic”

The “Angel of Arsenic”

Marie Lafarge

(p.54) Chapter Two The “Angel of Arsenic”
The Subject of Murder

Lisa Downing

University of Chicago Press

This chapter examines the case of Marie Lafarge, and how the treatment she received in a series of cultural discourses, including medical, literary, journalistic, and criminological, differed considerably from that of Lacenaire, despite her own, more prolific output as a writer. Although a feature shared by conservative accounts of both murderers is the focus on the criminal dangers of reading and writing, the gendered specificity of the treatments afforded the reading and writing criminal subject will be given consideration here. There was a general disagreement on whether Lafarge was guilty or not, and this divided French society into two opposing factions: the Lafargistes and the anti-Lafargistes. The extensiveness of the medico-legal investigations concerning the physical evidence of the crime has led to the case being cited as the first instance of forensic toxicology.

Keywords:   cultural discourses, marie lafarge, lacenaire, reading, writing, french society, lafargistes, anti-lafargistes

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