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4. The Death Penalty
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about the potential ambiguity of the novel's title – 'In Cold Blood'. Are Dick and Perry alone in having acted 'in cold blood'? Does the performance of capital punishment at the end of the novel constitute another kind of cold-bloodedness? ('How about hanging the bastard? That's pretty goddam cold-blooded too').
In this course, Dr Christopher Pittard (University of Portsmouth) explores Truman Capote's 1966 true crime classic, In Cold Blood. We begin by thinking about the genre of the novel, a genre which Capote referred to as 'the non-fiction novel'. After that, we provide a close reading of the opening pages of the novel, focusing in particular on the way in which Capote embeds certain themes and images that will recur throughout the text. After that, we think about the presentation of masculinity in the novel, looking in particular at the (potentially homoerotic?) relationship between Dick and Perry. In the fourth module, we think about title of the novel itself – is it only Dick and Perry who have acted 'in cold blood' or can this description also be applied to the execution of the two murderers? Finally, in the fifth module, we explore some of the ethical issues associated with Capote's writing of the novel itself, focusing in particular on the final scene of the novel, which describes an event which never actually happened.
Dr Christopher Pittard joined the University of Portsmouth in 2009, having held previous teaching positions at Newcastle University and the University of Exeter. His main research focus is on the popular culture of the nineteenth century, especially the emergence of popular genres in the Victorian fin de siecle and detective fiction in particular. His monograph, Purity and Contamination in Late Victorian Detective Fiction, considers how such fictions (and the periodicals in which they appeared) engaged with ideas of material and social purity, ranging from Sherlock Holmes cleaning the face of criminality in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” to the moral policing carried out by the Social Purity movements and late Victorian antivivisection campaigns. His publications in this area include discussions of Arthur Conan Doyle, Arthur Morrison, Fergus Hume, and of the Strand Magazine more widely.
Cite this Lecture
Pittard, C. (2018, August 15). Capote: In Cold Blood - The Death Penalty [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/capote-in-cold-blood/the-death-penalty
Pittard, Christopher. "Capote: In Cold Blood – The Death Penalty." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/capote-in-cold-blood/the-death-penalty