Sunday, April 10, 2011

Identifying Criminals in Literature

Can we identify criminals on sight? It seemswe can to a certain degree. Something else to look for in works of literature.


  1. I remember reading Chretien de Troyes a couple of years ago and marveling at the way his characters were slaves to their physiognomy. The ugly dwarf was always evil and the heroic knight always tall and fair. I wonder if these sorts of stereotypes might have been useful in early hunter-gatherer societies, too. Staying away from rough looking strangers prevented rape or the spread of disfiguring diseases, etc.?

  2. Indeed, essentially everyone believed this to be true until it was discredited by phrenology and Social Darwinism. What is perhaps odder than evolving a tendency to judge people this way is that the judgments are likely to be true. I hadn't thought of the disease angle, but you're probably right about that.