English 157 - Summer Sessions II, 2020

Detective Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Dobbins, Gregory
CRN: 74042
Time: MTW 2:10-3:50


    "Noir in California and Elsewhere"

    This course will not concern the history of the detective novel in general-- instead, it will focus exclusively on two specific sub-genres of crime fiction: the "hard-boiled detective novel" and "noir fiction". The Hard-Boiled detective novel first emerged in California the 1920s and 1930s in the works of writers like Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and James Cain. It referred to what was then a new trajectory in crime writing: these novels were often bleaker, more violent, and often focused on the exposure of systematic and institutional corruption. These novelists consciously developed their respective approaches to the detective novel AGAINST the more staid English model of the detective novel identified with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Sayers. Later, once the works of the "hard-boiled" writers were made into films, the term "noir" came into use when they started to appear in post-WWII France. While the sense of "darkness" captured by the word noir in part referred to the formal characteristics evident in these films, it also captured the sense of bleakness that these films (and the novels on which they were based) expressed as a persistent thematic concern. By now, "noir" loosely refers to a sub-genre of twentieth-century crime-writing that begins roughly 100 years ago and continues into the present day.

    This course will focus on the history of noir, with specific focus on its emergence in California roughly 100 years ago. In many cases, we will be read classic noir novels by writers like Hammett, Chandler, Cain and Jim Thompson and compare to them to the notable films they inspired. The final syllabus has not yet been determined-- please check back here in the coming weeks.

    Because Summer Session II will take place in similar circumstances to Spring 2020, this course will be comprised of a mix of synchronous and asynchronous pedagogy. I anticipate that we will have live meetings once a week (via Zoom Discussion, most likely on Wednesdays). Our other class commitments (that which would cover the time in class for Monday and Tuesday each week) will be satisfied through several pre-recorded videos covering the reading which will appear throughout the week for you to view on your own time.




    TBD- Watch his space in coming weeks