English 157 - Summer Sessions I, 2017

Detective Fiction

    Topic: Noir Detective and Crime Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Dobbins, Gregory
CRN: 53731
Time: MTW 4:10-5:50
Location: 248 Voorhies


    This course will be concerned with the development and history of one popular strand of crime fiction. For the most part, it will focus on the classic American tradition of the "hard-boiled detective novel" and its evolution into "noir" crime fiction. We will read writers like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, James Cain, Chester Himes, Jim Thompson and Patricia Highsmith who are all identified with the emergence of noir. We will then look closely at a group of more recent writers from both the United States (James Ellroy, Walter Mosley) and other countries (Derek Raymond, Cathi Unsworth, and Ian Rankin) who have reinvented noir for more contemporary purposes. To balance our reading and for the purposes of investigating noir through a different medium, we will be watching several films as well (in many cases, films which have been adapted from novels we will read).

    WARNING: This is a Summer School course, so it will retain a casual approach in regard to our subject material. However, because of the subject of this course-- and even more so because we will be focused on one of the darker/bleaker strands of detective/crime fiction-- many of these novels include depictions of graphic violence, murder, and other horrible crimes. In this class there will be blood-- and quite a lot of it. Please take this warning into account if such matters are troubling or prove difficult for you to encounter in an English course.


    Attendance, quizzes, participation, short assignment concerning a noir film, and either two 5-6 page essays or one 10-12 page essay


    The Maltese Falcon, Dasiel Hammett
    The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
    The Postman Always Rings Twice, James Cain
    Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
    Cotton Comes to Harlem, Chester Himes
    L.A. Confidential, James Ellroy
    Devil in a Blue Dress, Walter Mosley
    He Dies with His Eyes Wide Open, Derek Raymond
    Knots and Crosses, Ian Rankin
    The Singer, Cathi Unsworth