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Katharine Cox
and
Kate Watson

The introduction establishes the theoretical concept of remarking drawing on Jacques Derrida’s theories of the simultaneous act of difference and communality in writing (re-marking), before defining the tattoo and historical methods of tattooing. Reading the tattoo as simultaneously under and over-coded, the chapters argue that the tattoo has a meta, self-reflective and subversive function within the crime and detective genre itself. The introduction positions the collection’s approach to tattooing through a mini-literature review considering contemporary sociological, anthropological and historical responses. Tattoos offer complex articulations of place, gender, animal ethics, rule of law, violence, trauma, art, race and narrative. By responding to the sheer diversity of critical approaches that focus on the body and narrative – including, but not limited to, posthumanism, spatiality, postcolonialism, embodiment and gender studies, culminating in an interdisciplinary skin studies – the chapters demonstrate how the tattoo speaks. It is a complex story.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
Marking women and nonhuman animals
Kate Watson
and
Rebekah Humphreys

This interdisciplinary chapter provides a literary reading and philosophical analyses of issues surrounding the depiction of women and of nonhuman animals in a subgenre of contemporary crime narratives – what this chapter terms ‘killing floor’ crime fiction. This is achieved through a focus on the function of the tattoo, ‘markings’ in a broad sense (both metaphorically and physically) and the gendered elements of animal representations in crime fiction. Through an analysis of the significance of marking skin, the chapter links the exploitation and objectification of the bodies of women and of nonhuman animals. In doing so, it compares the use of animals in modern-day killing floor practices and the position of women in contemporary crime fiction. Through forcible marking and scarification, this chapter raises pertinent interrelated ethical issues concerning the perceptions of women, their societal status and the commercial use of nonhuman animals.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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The tattoo as navel in Louisa May Alcott’s ‘V.V.: Or, plots and counterplots’
Alexander N. Howe

Louisa May Alcott’s 'V.V.; or, Plots and Counterplots' (1865) is a remarkable piece of detective fiction. Like all the Alcott thrillers, the tale features an unconventional woman, a danseuse/actress named Virginie Varens who mercilessly thwarts the conventional markings of femininity in her maniacal drive for wealth, recognition and revenge. Alcott exhibits her shrewd understanding of Edgar Allan Poe through a deliberate subversion of the detective process, an anti-climax that is figured by a mark written upon Viginie’s body: the infamous tattoo of 'V.V.' underscored by a lover’s knot. This chapter analyses the ways in which Varens’ tattoo serves as the navel of the story, in the sense spoken of by Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, and Shoshana Felman – that is, a tangled knot of signification that remains impenetrable to interpretation. The navel marks that point where signification traumatically touches the body, yet in this tangle the body likewise speaks in its disruption of narrative, marking the limits of the detective’s knowledge and the limits of the emergent detective genre.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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Urban hieroglyphics, patternings and tattoos in Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The tell-tale heart’ and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick; Or, the whale
Spencer Jordan

This chapter uses Henri Lefebvre’s concepts of ‘spatial code’ and ‘representational space’ to explore the transgressive relationship between body and city. In detective fiction, the city has often been represented as an arena of signs and secrets, what Laura Marcus has called ‘urban hieroglyphics’. The chapter considers both the physical movement or ‘patterning’ of bodies through the city and the tattoo as examples of spatial codes. It takes as its frame of reference the city of New York in the mid nineteenth century, a period that witnessed unprecedented expansion based on the gridiron symmetry of the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811. The chapter discusses how two literary works can be understood as responses to this unique urban phenomenon. Reading Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ (1843) and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick (1851) as examples of detective fiction, the essay analyses how Lefebvre’s concept of ‘representational space’ offers a means of conceptualising the symbolic use of the tattoo within the genre.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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Speculations of morality and spirituality in Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings
David Beck

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.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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Cross-cultural tattooing in Caryl Férey’s New Zealand crime fiction
Ellen Carter

This chapter considers the work of bestselling French author Caryl Férey, who uses tattoos both to drive the intrigue and to set the cultural scene in two New Zealand-based thrillers: Haka (1998) and Utu (2004). In the crime narrative, Férey simplifies contemporary Maori tattooing for his detectives – and his French readers – by having all members of a cannibalistic Maori sect sport the same moko (facial tattoo). In reality, each Maori’s moko is unique. In inking criminality on faces, Férey mines a crime fiction trope that harks back to Cesare Lombroso’s nineteenth-century theories of criminology which linked crime to inherited, often visible, characteristics. Although the presence of moko is not genetically determined, a biological link pertains through Maori ancestry. Using the moko as an indication of criminal culpability is read in this chapter as a powerful, yet simplistic, undercoded signifier, accessible for cultural outsider readers, but which forms a problematic cultural appropriation. As such, Férey offers cultural outsider readers a (false) sense that they possess privileged access to a code system otherwise restricted to initiated insiders. In doing so, his writing exemplifies a cultural re-writing of tattoos typical of neocolonial attitudes to indigenous peoples.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
Reading the tattoo in Lemony Snicket’s A series of unfortunate events
Caroline Jones
and
Katharine Cox

This chapter explores how the changing meaning of the tattoo in Lemony Snicket’s A series of unfortunate events disrupts initially simplistic representations of good and evil for the child protagonists and reader. As a result, the changing interpretations of the tattoo also charts the shift in the three central characters’ self-identity and sense of community belonging. Early representations of the tattoo as a sign of fear and surveillance are complicated after book six through the revelation of the secret society known as V.F.D., where membership is usually denoted through an eye tattoo. However, following the society’s split, it is impossible to read the intentions of the bearer of the tattoo. An appreciation of the complexity and evolving meaning of the tattoo mirrors the children’s increasingly sensitive readings of literature and character. The children are often confronted with damaged or incomplete documents and textualities which mean that the children are reliant on partial interpretations. The tattoo is central to the books’ representation of the malleability of meaning, of the promotion of research alongside reading, as demonstrated through the children’s growth in understanding that the world is complex.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
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Sentient ink, curatorship and writing the new weird in China Miéville’s Kraken: An anatomy
Katharine Cox

This chapter reads metaphors of ink, tattoo and tattooing in China Miéville’s Kraken as Miéville’s curatorship of the new weird, which reveals complex associations with body, place and meaning. This chapter challenges Miéville’s theorisation of the new weird and details a historically nuanced understanding of the relationship between writing, detection and tattooing in weird fiction. The weird as part of crisis-blasted modernity opens up to older, suppressed representations of the weird associated with the idea of the Kraken, the etymology of ‘weird’ and the associations of the tattoo which are active in the text. Here, the use of tattoos as a metaphor for writing highlights the body’s potential as a site to reclaim power in literature more widely, and so exceed the genres of weird and detective fiction. This chapter’s emphasis on modes of ink and tattooing can be extended and used as a means to explore contemporary ontological debates of self, embodiment and representation.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
Criminal minds, CSI: NY and Law and order
Ruth Hawthorn
and
John Miller

The recent ‘tattoo renaissance’ has seen what was previously considered largely as the mark of the deviant progress into mainstream culture. Tattoos are no longer the province of the outlaw; marks of resistance have become inscribed within the very ideology that historically they appeared to contest. Contemporary tattoo culture finds itself caught in a paradox. Although more lucrative than ever before, the allure of an outsider art is tarnished for many practitioners by tattooing’s seeming ubiquity. This chapter explores the relationship between social deviance and consumer culture in depictions of three contemporary US crime dramas: Criminal Minds, CSI: NY and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Given the tattoo’s longstanding connection to criminality, it is hardly surprising that such shows should embrace the ‘tattoo renaissance’. Importantly, this is a genre that strikes its own balance between marginality and the mainstream; these series rely on the repeated reinstatement of normality in the face of the pathological. This chapter argues that the depiction of tattoos functions not simply as a reactionary gesture of demonising the tattooed, but also as a way of retaining the tattoo’s potency as the mark of the outsider in order to facilitate its usefulness to consumer culture.

in Tattoos in crime and detective narratives
Marking and remarking
Editors: and

Tattoos in crime and detective narratives: Marking and remarking examines representations of the tattoo and tattooing in literature, television and film, from two periods of tattoo renaissance (1851–1914, and around 1955 to the present). The collection reads tattoos and associated scarification, such as branding, as mimetic devices that mark and remark crime and detective narratives in complex ways. The chapters utilise a variety of critical perspectives drawn from posthumanism, spatiality, postcolonialism, embodiment and gender studies to read the tattoo as individual and community bodily narratives. The collection develops its focus from the first tattoo renaissance and considers the rebirth of the tattoo in contemporary culture through literature, children's literature, film and television. This book has a broad appeal and will be of interest to all literature and media scholars and, in particular, those with an interest in crime and detective narratives and skin studies.