Emily Hiltz, a doctoral candidate in Communication, recently presented a paper titled “The Visual Construction of Criminal Notoriety: Discourse Analysis as an Historical Critique of Violent Women’s Notoriety” at the International Association for Media and History conference hosted at Université Paris II Pantheon-Assas from July 10-13. This year’s conference theme was crime, violence, and justice.
The paper outlined the model of visual discourse analysis Hiltz uses in her dissertation to trace the process of notoriety formation for high-profile American women accused of murder. The paper illustrated this method by exploring the circulation of select images of Amanda Knox, a woman who gained global media attention through her trials for the murder of Meredith Kercher in 2007. Consulting a broad cultural archive from an eight-year period, Hiltz mapped the use and spread of two well-known journalistic images to show the multiple and contradictory ways the accused is positioned in popular culture and criminal justice.
The paper argues Knox’s notoriety was not necessarily determined by the allegations of sexual murder against her but emerged from the speculative practices that continually envisioned her in contradictory and partial terms. By conceptualizing notoriety as a visual discursive practice, Hiltz aims to lend historical and media specificity to the feminist analysis of violent women in contemporary visual culture.
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