(Re-)Framing 'the monster': De-Constructing the (re)presentation of serial killer Aileen Wuornos

Taylor, Sarah Ashley (2019) (Re-)Framing 'the monster': De-Constructing the (re)presentation of serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”
- Atticus Finch, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (Harper Lee, 1982: 39)

This remark by Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (Lee, 1982) captures the complexity of the human condition, specifically how we can never truly understand a person until we consider how they interpret the world around them, and their place within it. Yet in this thesis, I endeavour to chart the interplay that exists between an individual’s linguistic performance in interaction and the psychological drivers that engender such performances. To date there has been little in the way of academic exploration into determining what frameworks of linguistic interaction, such as facework, can inform us about an individual’s psychology, specifically the field of Personal Construct Theory (PCT), which would facilitate a more comprehensive understanding of human behaviour. Such interplay relates to how speakers and hearers interpret one another, with each individual processing information in their own unique way and reacting to it according to these intents and motivations. This study aims to investigate the proposed complimentary relationship between linguistic facework, and PCT, to establish a better understanding as to what our linguistic performances inform us about an individual’s psychological profile, particularly their motivations and intent. Taking the documentary footage of the serial killer Aileen Wuornos, I have constructed a framework which incorporates a complimentary analysis of facework and PCT, to draw conclusions as to what Wuornos’ linguistic behaviour tells us about her own personal value constructs and performative intent. This work contributes significantly to both fields of facework and PCT, as it reveals just how multi-layered the concept of performance in interaction is by addressing questions regarding why people choose to use certain linguistic facework strategies over others, by analysing facework within the scope of PCT. This is something that would otherwise be impossible when analysing these frameworks in isolation from one another.

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