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The Body in the ReservoirMurder and Sensationalism in the South$
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Michael Ayers Trotti

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780807831786

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807899038_trotti

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Mass Culture's Search for Disorder

(p.207) Epilogue
The Body in the Reservoir

Michael Ayers Trotti

University of North Carolina Press

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.

Keywords:   criminals, physiognomy, popular mind, scientific circles, criminal executions

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