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Lecture 4

HIST 3130 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Roger ChartierPremium

1 pages192 viewsSummer 2015

Course Code
HIST 3130
Ashley Mathisen

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Unit 4 – Virtual Notebook (4.1)
The media and the ways in which it is used and delivered can shape our perception of crime.
This is due to the fascination society has with crime and the attention it brings to outlets of news
and information. The use of print is one of the many trends that continue to remain constant to
modern society. Victorian society was as equally interested as they were disgusted by crime;
therefore, mass media covering current criminals or crimes gave them new topics to discuss or
gossip about. The way that the printing press released news stories of criminals changed the way
that the reader experienced the story (i.e. adding crime scene illustrations).
The “Full Particulars of the murder of Mary Wetherley” is an example of the above-mentioned
ways in which news outlets would change the experience of the reader. The print and illustration
was released in the mid-18th century and describes the murder of Mary Wetherley in Elephant
and Castle. Weatherley was recently estranged from her husband as she left to live with her
lover, William Heeley. Weatherley regretted her decision and moved back with her husband,
enraging Heeley and leading him to take revenge by slitting Weatherley’s throat. Heeley’s body
was found with Weatherley’s with his own throat sliced open. The image paints a picture of the
attack in Weatherley’s home as violent and shocking. The word “MURDER” in bold letters
draws in a curious crowd of readers.
The publication is rather sleazy in the sense that it was rushed to print with inaccuracies and
mistakes. This leads to wild speculation about murders and an unreliable printing press. This
print caused me to think of our previous lesson in the history of print and the “triangular
relationship” between text, book, and reader. The reader is a part of the social world that
historian Roger Chartier argues anchors printed texts. They are interdependent and reliant on
each other as the reader absorbs the texts that are produced by the things that intrigue society.
The way that Mary Weatherley’s article was presented also highlights which class and type of
person may have been interested in this particular article. With the large picture and short tidbits
of information, this article was likely aimed for a working class audience. The message
delivered in these types of publications was very different than the message delivered in upper
class publications which attacked the classes below them (i.e. class-based antagonism through
fear of the criminal).
This article made me think of interaction between class and crime as well as separation of private
and public life. As we learned in the history of print, where publications were read also
indicated society’s views on the reading material. Oral reading gave way to more visual articles
and reading in public gave way to reading in the privacy of one’s own home. Reading in the
public sphere led to a faster growing fear of crime that spread knowledge (not always reliable
knowledge) into society. This is one example the ways in which how information is experienced
changes the meaning for the reader and impacts society.
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