Drexel University’s Pennoni Honors College and the College of Arts and Sciences will host an interdisciplinary conference on Jack the Ripper. Unlike many conferences aimed principally at investigating the identity of the infamous 1888 serial killer of prostitutes in the East End of London, the Drexel event will explore a much broader range of issues. The conference will be held on October 28 and 29, at Drexel’s Edmund D. Bossone Research Enterprise Center (Market Street, between 31st and 32nd Streets).
Co-chaired by Drexel professors Paula Marantz Cohen and Fred J. Abbate, the conference, “Jack the Ripper Through a Wider Lens,” will examine topics such as the economic and social conditions of women in late 19th century England, the logic behind the theories of detection at work in the attempts to capture the Ripper, what films and other fictionalized versions of the Ripper case reveal about how society appraises both killer and victims, the role the media played in fueling fear and why people continue to be fascinated by the case more than twelve decades later.
“We are interested in making the conference truly interdisciplinary, and so we are hoping to get a diverse set of responses in our call for papers,” Cohen said. "We are also holding a short film competition on Ripper-related themes. Those entries judged exceptional will be shown during the meetings and awarded cash prizes."
Cohen, Distinguished Professor of English at Drexel, recently published the novel What Alice Knew which puts the Ripper murders at the center of a mystery involving Henry and William James. Abbate, who teaches philosophy in the Honors College, will be introducing a course in the fall term on
the philosophical and logical problems of criminal detection using the Ripper murders as the model.
“There have been countless books, articles and films about the Whitechapel murders,” Abbate said. “Several were published in the very year of the brutal slayings but none have really explored the logic behind the approach to the killer's identity. The course should give some interesting challenges to our Honors students, since they will also have to make a strong case for their best Ripper candidate.”
The conference’s opening session will feature an overview of the Ripper case, a discussion by experts on criminal investigation and an evening reception for registered guests. More information about the conference, registration, paper submission guidelines and hotel accommodations is available at http://drexel.edu/honors/conferences/jtr/
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