Mass Culture's Search for Disorder
This book concludes with a discussion of nineteenth-century American society's fascination with criminals: their acts and their bodies, their expressions, gait, manner, visage, and images of them appearing in print. This interest in the physiognomy of the criminal continued after the executions, both in the popular mind and in scientific circles. Criminal executions provided one of the few sources of bodies for scientific and medical research. In 1827, the corpses of three pirate-murderers executed outside Richmond's penitentiary walls were exhumed and electrically stimulated to test whether bodies could be revived by “galvanism.” This scientific interest is not surprising in the era of phrenology and physiognomy, particularly given the scientific and medical opportunities presented by the acquisition of any human body.
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