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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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“Infanticidal” Femininity

“Infanticidal” Femininity

Myra Hindley

(p.99) Chapter Four “Infanticidal” Femininity
The Subject of Murder

Lisa Downing

University of Chicago Press

This chapter recognizes the fact that all women, whether technically mothers or not, are symbolically charged in this culture with maternity, with the burden of caring for children, and that dereliction of this duty carries a heavy penalty. The first section is devoted to a discussion of the specifically gendered rhetoric about Myra Hindley at the time of her arrest and trial. Of particular import in the case of Hindley is the role played by social class in defining subjectivity, social agency, and criminal transgression. The case also served as a warning against the dangers of allowing members of the uneducated but upwardly mobile classes access to literary material. The second half of this chapter examines in detail these debates about social class and access to morally corrupting materials. The chapter concludes by exploring the afterlife of the case and Hindley's enduring role throughout her long prison sentence as a peerless public hate figure.

Keywords:   maternity, children, gendered rhetoric, Myra Hindley, social class, literary materials, hate figure

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