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The question “who is the murderer?” remains at the heart of countless media scandals today, just as over a century ago; many rely on graphic images of violence, brutality, and criminal activity. Scott Spector’s long-awaited book eloquently demonstrates that the fascination with such spectacles dates back to the 1860s, with the rise of media scandals about sexual practices (especially between men) and their potential connections to violent criminal acts. Ritual murder accusations that gained momentum in the 1880s made for Central European versions of the Dreyfus Affair, which strained Christian-Jewish relations and put allegedly treacherous Jews on trial. The fin-de-siècle, when killers similar to London’s Jack the Ripper and other marginal or degenerate figures came to signify urban modernity, marks a further turning point in this history. It was also around 1900 when new sensationalist texts about the criminality of the metropolis proliferated. [excerpt]


Review of Violent Sensations: Sex, Crime, and Utopia in Vienna and Berlin, 1860–1914 by Scott Spector. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.





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Copyright © 2018 The German Studies Association. This article first appeared in German Studies Review 41:1 (2018), 178-180. Reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press.