Friday, September 9, 2011

From/for the October 2011 "California Focus" on the Ripper Conference

Area resident Carla E. Anderton was recently selected to present a paper at an international conference on Jack the Ripper at Drexel University in Philadelphia in late October. The conference, dubbed “Jack the Ripper: Through a Wider Lens”, will examine the myth and mystery surrounding one of history’s most infamous serial killers. Anderton’s paper is on “Our Continued Fascination with the Ripper” and her presentation will center on why society is still so intrigued by a series of unsolved murders in London that took place the late 19th century.

About the conference, Anderton said, “Being asked to present alongside such notable names in the field of Ripperology – that’s what we call the study of Jack’s crimes – is an honor, and one of my greatest achievements to date. It’s exciting to realize so many others have an interest in this riveting case and that in addition to having a chance to share my knowledge with them, I’ll have the opportunity to hear their presentations.”

Anderton first “fell in love with Jack” while on a “Jack the Ripper Walking Tour” she took as part of a high school trip to London in 1995. Tour guide and leading authority on the case Donald Rumbelow used her as a “model” for where the Ripper slashed his victims, which she called “creepy” but admits it left her hungering to learn more about the mysterious person responsible for murdering at least five prostitutes in the Whitechapel section of London in 1888.

“I’ve always been interested in British history, so it wasn’t a hard sell,” Anderton admits. “But, my fascination with the Ripper really took hold during my undergraduate studies at Cal U. I was in an Advanced Writing course with Professor Alan Natali, who I’ll always consider both mentor and friend, and I chose as my semester project a series of sketches on what might have transpired if the ‘Ripper’ had been in love with his last victim, whose murder was so much more horrific in comparison to his earlier victims. Professor Natali really encouraged me to keep going with the project, and by the next semester, when I was a student in his Creative Writing of Fiction course, I’d begun writing a full fledged novel based on the concept.”

Anderton took a hiatus from the project after graduation from Cal U while she served as Editor-in-Chief of California Focus from 2005-2009, but she returned to it with a vengeance after enrolling in a Master of Fine Arts program at Seton Hill University in Greensburg. She will graduate in January 2012, and finally completed the novel, titled The Heart Absent, in September of this year. She hopes her participation in the upcoming Ripper conference will help her land a publisher for the novel.

She realizes many may consider her fascination with the Ripper crimes macabre, and said, “I know it seems like an awfully gruesome subject to be interested in, but what I find most compelling about the case is that it elevated these women whose names we’d never have known – after all, they were basically indigent streetwalkers – to a place in history that I think it’s important to preserve. These were real people whose murderer was never caught and whose deaths were never avenged. I’m also intrigued by the role of the media in publicizing and immortalizing these crimes. The case transformed journalism as we know it today.”

Currently, Anderton serves as President of the Board of Directors at Jozart Center for the Arts. In addition to writing fiction, she has also written and published poetry, plays, articles and essays. She lives in California with her 13-year old son, pre-professional ballet dancer Allen Free, who – in addition to his many other accomplishments – regularly dances, strums the guitar and serves coffee at Jozart’s weekly open mics.

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