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The First Murder: The Literary Myth of Cain and Abel

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Title: The First Murder
Subtitle: The Literary Myth of Cain and Abel
Subject Classification: Literature and Literary Criticism, Religion and Faith 
BIC Classification: DS, HR, JPVH1
BISAC Classification: LIT025040, LIT024040,  POL004000
Binding: Hardback, pp.(to be confirmed)
Planned Publication date: February 2025
ISBN (printed book): 978-1-80441-324-1
ISBN (web pdf): 978-1-80441-325-8

Price: £87.99

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The myth of the first fratricide from the Hebrew bible’s account of Cain and Abel holds perennial fascination in the western world. This book, which takes its title from Alessandro Scarlatti’s 1707 opera Il Primo Omicidio (The First Murder), examines primarily literary renditions of the myth from the time of the French Revolution until the close of the twentieth century. The literary works, discussed in 8 chapters, all question the myth in its moral and ethical implications.

Fundamental aspects emerge regarding the myth’s role in societal constructs and the function of capital punishment.  Yahweh (the Old Testament God) spares the murderer’s life, although marking him forever, and the marked Cain becomes the founder of the complex social structure of the city. The literary examples hail from different genres (poetry, drama, novel) and countries (Britain, Germany, Spain, USA) and are enriched by figurative representations of the first murder (by Titian, Jacopo Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Peter Paul Rubens, William Blake). After tracing the myth’s manifestations in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the book concludes with contemporary evidence of the continued fascination and relevance of the first murder, especially in the wake of climate migration and the struggle to define civil rights in the midst of globalization.


Author: Ernesto Livorni is Professor of Italian Literature, University of Wisconsin – Madison, USA.


This title is currently being reviewed. Please check back for further updates in due course. 

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