Course Detail

195:235: Detective Stories

Mystery story, detective fiction, whodunit, police story, crime story... All these labels point to a new, singular form of narrative that crystallized during the nineenth century and has since permeated modern literature and film. Through the close reading of a number of major works of fiction from different cultural origins, we will examine what makes detective stories a distinct type of literature, and explore historical, philosophical and political implications of its emergence and evolution. Readings will include short fiction by Balzac, Hoffmann, Poe, Conan Doyle, and Borges, as well as novels by Agatha Christie, Chandler, and Simenon. We will also read some historically important criticism of the genre, and study a few filmic adaptations of famous detective stories.

Other than normal engagement in class discussion, students will be expected to participate in three workshops on writing and provide five short essays written in class and one final paper. The final grade will be based on participation in class discussion (approximately 20%), the five short essays (approximately 10% each), and the final paper (approximately 30%). This course fulfills Core requirements AHp and WCr.