English 157 - Spring, 2020

Detective Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Roy, Parama
CRN: 64103
Time: TR 4:40-6:00
Location: 118 Olson


    This course is dedicated to an exploration of detective and mystery fiction, one of the newest and most popular forms of genre fiction worldwide. It will explore detective fiction from the moment of its emergence in the nineteenth century; we will begin therefore by reading some of the early classics by Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle. In addition, the course will consider some examples, most notably works by Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, from the so-called Golden Age of detective fiction before proceeding to the scrutiny of the classic American tradition of the ?hard-boiled? detective narrative in the work of Dashiell Hammett and Chester Himes. We will wrap up with a consideration of the genre as strikingly international in character, reading detective fictions from outside the Anglophone world, from China to Baghdad. The following questions, among others, will guide our reading: how does detective fiction figure shifts across cultures, media, and historical periods? What do these narratives suggest about truth, justice, the moral order, punishment, and the rule of law? What are the ideological stakes of the genre with respect to gender, race, class, and sexuality? What are its literary rules and formal elements?


    Participation and attendance (10%); 5 unannounced quizzes (10%); one 4-5 page paper (20%); one 6-7 page paper (35%); one take-home final (25%).


    The Moonstone, ed. Steve Farmer , Wilkie Collins
    The Hound of the Baskervilles, ed. Francis O'Gorman, Arthur Conan Doyle
    The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
    The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett
    Cotton Comes to Harlem, Chester Himes
    The Chinese Nail Murders, Robert van Gulik