Barbara Pezzotti ACIS
At the “Gender and Sexuality in the Crime Genre” conference just finished in Galway, I attended a very interesting keynote address by Lisa Downing (University of Birmingham) entitled “Romancing the Cannibal: Genre and Gender Trouble in Thomas Harris’s “Hannibal” (1999). In her speech, Downing describes the character of Hannibal the Cannibal as “the poster-boy” of the exceptional murder and the most celebrated fictional serial killer. According to this scholar, in a “postmodern decadent text” Hannibal embodies the “consumer habits of late capitalism”. She also highlights an evolution in the character from previous novels of the series and comments on the reaction of the readers to a more humanized Hannibal.
Downing’s analysis of Harris’s novels is part of a research she has conducted for several years that has culminated in the publication of “The Subject of Murder. Gender, Exceptionality, and the Modern Killer” published by University of Chicago Press. In her volume she problematizes our view of serial killers, often perceived either as degenerate beasts or supermen. After the success of Giorgio Faletti’s “Io uccido” and the publication of the new Grazia Negro’s adventure by Carlo Lucarelli featuring a serial killer, I believe this is a vital book for the analysis of the genre in Italy. Are fictional serial killers in the Italian tradition like beasts? Are they supermen? Is there an Italian way to this sub-genre? I would say that at least in the case with Pitbull, the serial killer in Lucarelli’s “Un giorno dopo l’altro”, the Italian sub-genre also points to the banality of serial crime. Do you agree?