April 9, 2018

VSU Offers Summer Course with a Focus on Murder

VALDOSTA — Ancient murders, serial killers, and deathly duels — all will be examined when Valdosta State University’s Department of History presents The History of Murder during the Summer 2018 semester June 6-29. 

“Everyone is fascinated with murder, students in particular,” said Dr. Mary Block, the professor of history who created and began teaching the class two summers ago. “We all love the murder shows, movies, and books. I’m fascinated with the fact that people are fascinated with it.

“You could take just Jack the Ripper, and if from the day you were born to the day you died, you did nothing 24/7 but read about Jack the Ripper, you still wouldn’t get through all the books.”

The upper-level elective course will take a look at murders from the beginning of time to the present moment.

“There are only two crimes in the world that cross time and place,” said Block, who specializes in the history of violence. “One is murder, and the other is rape. I’m interested in pointing out that what today is murder hasn’t always been murder. How we think about it today is not how people have always thought about it. We’ve treated it differently across time. So I start with Cain and Abel, and I move along to the present.

“What we see changing over time is we get gradations of murder. There used to just be murder. Then they start to factor in intent and those kinds of things, where at one point in time, if you killed somebody, you killed somebody. We also look at things like duels, which used to not be considered murder and now are.” 

The course will examine murder from several perspectives, such as how it has been treated in the courtroom and represented in literature.

“It’s not a psychology class,” Block said. “We don’t look at why people kill. It’s more about how societies have treated the intentional killing of another human being. That’s what we’ll be studying.”

The course will include a classic murder movie, and students will be required to write a paper on one specific murder.

“It’s an unusual class that you probably won’t get in most places,” Block said. “It’s a class where you can come have fun and learn more than you ever thought you could know about murder." 

The Course Registration Number for The History of Murder, HIST 3070B, is 51253.

Contact Dr. Mary Block at (229) 333-5947 or mblock@valdosta.edu to learn more. 

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