Philippe Artières, Un Séminariste assassin: L’affaire Bladier, 1905
At the end of the nineteenth and in the early years of the twentieth century, encouraging violent criminals to write their life stories became an accepted tool of forensic medicine. The autobiographical texts which emerged became vital building blocks in the psychological diagnosis of the subject. One of the leading international exponents of this method was the Lyon-based professor Alexandre Lacassagne, who developed a science of criminal anthropology guided by the principles of heredity and phrenology (the idea that mental functions could be precisely located in specific parts of the brain). Lacassagne was fascinated by abnormal behaviour and urged the inmates of Lyon prisons to write their autobiographies. He took a paternal interest in them, studied their tattoos, and used their life writing as a key to understanding the criminal personality. Philippe Artières has been working on Lacassagne’s papers for over 25 years, and they formed the basis of his previous work Le livre des vies coupables: autobiographies de criminels, 1896-1909 (The book of guilty lives) (Paris, 2000 and 2014). In this new book, he revisits one particularly disturbing case – the Bladier affair of 1905.
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