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Serial Killers: Death and Life in America's Wound Culture Paperback – January 15, 1998

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0415914819 ISBN-10: 0415914817

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Mark Seltzer is a professor of English at Cornell University who has previously explored, in his book Bodies and Machines, the notion of a technological society as one in which processes of "registration, recording, and reproduction" break down distinctions between individual and mass, private and public. In Serial Killers, he argues that this "machine culture" constitutes a "pathological public sphere" that sets up the serial killer as an icon of our "wound culture"--a public not only enthralled by, but addicted to, murder and mayhem. The Washington Post writes of this book: "Drawing with equal dexterity on sources ranging from gay pulp novelist Dennis Cooper to French philosopher Jacques Lacan, Seltzer sees the serial killer as a sort of performance artist around whom we gather in an unhealthy attempt to exorcise our own demons."

Also recommended: Of Men and Monsters: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Construction of the Serial Killer by Richard Tithecott --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This book will not appeal to those public library patrons who troll the true-crime section looking for something that will titillate or frighten them or who, like many of us, simply have a morbid curiosity about the beasts who walk among us. Rather, it is a scholarly work whose notes section makes up almost a quarter of its length. Drawing on a vast array of studies of serial killers, both scientific and fictional, and his own previous work on man and technology (Bodies & Machines, Routledge, 1992), Seltzer (English, Cornell) explores the emergence toward the end of the last century of a "wound culture," or the public fascination with torn and opened bodies and psyches, and the concomitant emergence of the serial killer as a type of person. He offers a fresh view that should be made available to readers in academic settings.?Jim G. Burns, Ottumwa P.L., Ia.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (January 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415914817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415914819
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,080,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Mark Seltzer's fascinating book is not for the faithhearted. It is not an easy read, but it is therefore also not to be dismissed (as some reviewers here seem to do).
Seltzer's mind is quite keen. He is a penetrating reader of texts and culture. And he sees relationships where others might see separate phenomena. In many ways building on his previous book about machine culture in America and its relationship to various texts (_Bodies and Machines_), Seltzer here probes the interaction between serial violence in real life and in novels and film. Among other things, he maps the generative influence of the one upon the other, and vice versa.
This book will probably appeal more to scholars and graduate students than to a general readership, for along the way Seltzer does draw on various critical theorists, whom those uninitiated into the world of theory will no doubt find obscure. A recommendation for them might be a book by Seltzer's former colleague at Cornell, Jonathan Culler, _Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction_.
If, however, you are not searching for beach reading, but rather a serious, challenging, and often macabre, look at the ways in which our society is obsessed with violence, this is a book that will repay your close and sustained attention. Moreover, it will probably, like Seltzer's other work, rub off on you in some way and help you read texts -- and culture -- with a more critical eye.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Philip Tew on October 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a seminal study. Simply put it is a brilliant book! Trauma theory starts here, and should progress to Ruth Leys' genealogy.
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15 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
I disagree with the other reviewer who praised this book for, among other things, its historical accuracy. This book has no claims to contribute to historical studies at all. It is a work in cultural studies, and shows all of the characteristics of that genre - obscure language, complex theories, loose historical claims, and a confusion between fictional and non-fictional sources. Obviously the analysis of fiction and non-fiction, together, is essential to the argument of the author, but as no attempt at historical or even literary context is attempted, one is left with a series of under-argued observations.
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1 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
Curiously missing from this text is a discussion of the fiction of Poppy Z. Brite--particularly her novel Exquisite Corpse. This novel,strangely enough,prefigures the Andrew Cunanan(I hope I'm spelling his last name correctly)murder spree. Also, Seltzer shows no evidence of having read the work of intellectual historian Louis Kern. His essay on the splatterpunk phenomenon would have been useful to Seltzer's arguments.
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2 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 10, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is the worst example of cultural studies. The book is full of vague, insubstantiated claims, tenuous theoretical and historical connections, sweeping generalizations, and marred by a fatal lack of basic organization. Cultural studies doesn't have to be this simplistic and thin. Each chapter reads like a series of promises ("I will deal with this issue later in this chapter") that remain unfulfilled, as though the writer couldn't actually deliver on the task of real analysis, but can only give vague and hollow summary. Avoid it.
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