This course introduces the study of mysteries and detective stories. Crime fiction has been the most popular of all fiction genres for at least the last century, while never fully attaining the honorific status of literature. To study crime fiction is thus not only to study how writers have imagined justice, the law, violence, and social order, but also to study the shifting boundaries between what is supposedly mere entertainment and what is supposedly literary art. Students will learn how to analyze a genre both in its own terms and in terms of social and historical developments. We will be doggedly serious about pulpy shoot-em-ups. We will study both genre landmarks and now-forgotten texts, ranging across American, British, and postcolonial Anglophone writers. Students are not expected to guess who did it before the end.
Syllabus (pdf). Concise notes from each class—formatted as slides, though I rarely actually projected them—and in-class handouts are linked below.
January 19. Introduction.
February 6. Sayers, Whose Body? (1).
February 16. Daly, “Knights of the Open Palm.”
February 23. Chandler, The Big Sleep (1).
Spring break. Some annotations to Ngũgĩ’s Petals of Blood.
March 27. Ngũgĩ, Petals of Blood (3).
March 29. Ngũgĩ, Petals of Blood (4).
April 4. Ngũgĩ, Petals of Blood (5).
April 6. Ngũgĩ, Petals of Blood (6).
April 10–13. Other activities took place.
April 17. Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (1).
April 20. Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (2).
April 24. Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (3).