English 157 - Winter, 2023

Detective Fiction

Class Information

Instructor: Ziser, Michael
CRN: 44726
Time: MWF 11:00-11:50
Location: 118 Olson
GE Areas: Writing Experience


"Crime is terribly revealing." Agatha Christie

This course explores the history and meaning of classic literature about crime, detection, policing, and punishment in the Anglophone world from the early modern era to the present day. Subjects include the deep anthropological and religious roots of crime narrative, the celebrity felon, the criminal underworld, the classic detective figure, the state-sanctioned police force, the hard-boiled private investigator, modern police procedurals, criminal psychopaths, and true crime, among other matters. Given the subject, many of the readings feature graphic representations of physical, sexual, and psychological violence. If that prospect causes you intolerable distress, please choose a different course.

Note on books:
Hard copies of all books have been ordered through the UCD Bookstore. They have also been placed on electronic Course Reserves through the Library. Digital versions (.epub format) are available on the course Canvas site under Files > Assigned Course Readings. Choose whichever format is best for you. If you can find a way to afford them (buying used, checking out from the library, etc.) paper copies are always best for your eyes and mind. Any additional readings on the schedule can be found as pdfs on Canvas under Files > Assigned Course Readings.


12% Daily Quizzes / Attendance (skip/drop any 3)
18% Discussion Posts (9x2%; skip/drop any one)
20% Wildcard Short Assignments (any 2 x 10%)
10% Film / TV Assignment
10% Personal Syllabus
30% Final Paper / Project (10pp or equivalent)


Oedipus the King (978-0226768687), Sophocles
Jack Sheppard (978-1551115917), William Henry Ainsworth
The Detective Stories of Edgar Allan Poe (978-0692553145), Edgar Allan Poe
A Study in Scarlet (978-1949460568), Arthur Conan Doyle
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (978-0062073563), Agatha Christie
The Big Sleep (978-0394758282), Raymond Chandler
Queenpin (978-1416534280), Megan Abbott
Cotton Comes to Harlem (978-0394759999), Chester Himes
The Godfather (978-0451205766), Mario Puzo
Cop Hater (978-1612183701), Ed McBain
The Killer Inside Me (978-0316404068), Jim Thompson
The Silence of the Lambs (978-0312195267), Thomas Harris
In Cold Blood (978-0679745587), Truman Capote