Serial Killers 2023-24
School Of History, Law And Social Sciences
Module - Semester 2
The module begins by investigating the nature of the serial killer and why this figure holds such allure, even admiration for some. Here we question the need for labelling serial killers and for distinguishing them as a specific type. Topics to be considered include: the difference between a serial killer and a psychopath, issues of taboo and moral transgression, notions of control, fear, and the objectification of people.
Various profiles of serial killers will be examined to draw out the mismatch between the public perception of the serial killer on the loose and the perpetrator when caught. Here some common psychopathic traits of the serial killer will be put under the spotlight, including the curious mismatch between outward appearances of banality and inner grandiose thoughts of self importance.
Students will go on to explore some of the philosophical justifications that serial killers have used to support their behaviour, including grandiose claims to moral relativism. These include their appeals to acting in accordance to a higher moral purpose or instructions given to them by a divine being. Most common are claims to the philosophical ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche--often regarded as the favourite philosopher of serial killers. Students will be introduced to the most popular of Nietzsche's ideas that are cited by serial killers and in accounts of them--namely his notions of the 'will to power' and the Ubermensch or 'Superman'. Students will learn how Nietzsche's ideas are widely misinterpreted by serial killers (as well as their criminal prosecutors), and will be encouraged to question what, if anything, the serial killer can teach us about ourselves and our moral codes and instincts.
The module also draws on sociological and criminological theories to understand the broader social, economic and political contexts in which serial killers operate and choose their victims. In so doing, the module examines how processes of globalisation, mass urbanisation and social exclusion provided fertile ground for the 'rise' of the serial killer.
-excellent -A* - A- Submitted work is of an outstanding quality and excellent in one or more of the following ways: Has originality of exposition with the student’s own thinking being readily apparent. Provides clear evidence of extensive and relevant independent study. Arguments are laid down with clarity and provide the reader with successive stages of consideration to reach conclusions.
good -Very Good B+ - B-. Submitted work is competent throughout and distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates: Very good structure and logically developed arguments. Draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student. Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning. Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.
threshold -C+ - C-. Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows: Generally accurate but with omissions and errors. Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning. Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions. Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.
- To be able to construct a convincing argument that is supported by relevant examples acquired from independent research and the consultation of secondary and primary literature.
- To be able to critique underlying issues in debates pertaining to the nature of serial killers, their victims, and their portrayal.
- To be able to evaluate different interpretations of complex human behaviours and to question their limitations and usefulness.
- To be able to use technical terminology correctly and to demonstrate awareness of the social and historical context of their meaning.
Critical glossary of terms
Case study of a serial killer to demonstrate application of theories