ENGL 200D -- Quarter 2010

READING LIT FORMS (Crime Fiction of the 19th and 20th Century) Patel M-Th 11:30-12:20 13116

From the ingenuity of detective Auguste Dupin to the shenanigans of Sam Spade, crime fiction has enjoyed immense popularity, creativity and criticism in the 19th and 20th century. As print media expanded over Britain and the US, crime fiction became the prominent readers-choice genre by 1900. In time, the genre has experienced much development with offshoot categories like Detective fiction, the whodunit, psychological thrillers, locked room mysteries, and forensic science narratives. This course explores the construction of the genre and prominent crime writers of both British and American fiction in the 19th and 20th century.

Specifically, the class will consider the historical, cultural and political shifts occurring during the rise of crime fiction. Students will be asked to think critically about central concepts in the genre such as truth, justice, criminality, victim and villain. How are these terms redefined over time? Furthermore, the class will look at the cultural implications of authority and consider the ways in which the social problems of the time find solution with the help of the genre. How does the genre (re)establish social malaise? Was there a need for monikers of authority when detective fiction became popular? If so, what are the origins of such necessities? What does the onset of crime noir suggest about the population and politics of the mid-20th century? Does the genre pose literary merit?

The course demands a lot of reading of both primary and secondary sources. Required texts include, but are not limited to, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. We will also be considering works by Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie and a few others. Also, since 200 is a “W” course, students will be required to write and revise 10-15 pages (in the form of two papers) and participate in a group presentation.

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