David Beck
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Speculations of morality and spirituality in Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings
in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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This chapter investigates tattoos and bodily markings in Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective and medical fiction. Firstly, by establishing the influence of Doyle’s mentor Dr Joseph Bell, the chapter demonstrates how this influence informed Doyle’s detective process through representation and analysis of tattoos. Doyle adapted Bell’s technique for Sherlock Holmes’ practice as a consulting detective, where bodily tattoos or markings frequently had criminal dimensions. Rather than settling questions of criminal identity, tattoos and brands in Doyle’s oeuvre lead to confusion – often through misidentification. Moreover, tattoos and markings prompted a contemplation of spirituality in Doyle’s historical and medical fiction where the marked body is a potential marker of spiritual and moral deformity. This chapter argues that such speculation is the primary role of tattooing and bodily markings in Doyle’s fictional writings.

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