On serial killers: the collective's search for understanding
thesisposted on 24.05.2021, 10:27 by Robyn S. Harper
I will begin by examining the term serial itself and its importance in the notion of the serial killer. What does the term serial say? It draws on series - a term often used in reference to novels, films and, quite literally, the television series. Series carries notions of multiple segments that are all linked in some way. There is an ongoing nature to the series - when one segment ends, another begins. The series creates anticipation, anxiety of what is to come and a hope for closure. As "serial killer" is a relatively new term it becomes possible to trace its inception and examine what is being revealed in this naming process. I then go to illustrate how this term serial is what sets serial killing apart from other forms of multiple murder (such as mass murder, spree killing, terrorism and assassination). I will explore the features of the serial killer that appear to make it unique to the collective by developing the language of the accounts of understanding the serial killer: the profiling account, the study of numbers, facts and statistics as a way to apprehend and comprehend the serial killer; the logical extension of society account, where the serial killer is a reflection of society from concerns with the individual to celebrity and consumerism; and the serial killer account, where the serial killer explains his own motivations. In looking at these accounts it becomes possible to see the cliches that are used to discuss the serial killer and how these reveal thoughts and fears of the collective, rather than providing the insight on the serial killer that the accounts are seeking.