WRIT 5500                                                                                               
Instructor: Amy England

The detective story is probably the most well established genre in the world, and therefore a rewarding arena for experiment. Our readings for the first half of the semester will cover the origins and development of the detective story, in particular the analytic detective story, through its origins in Poe, Conan Doyle, and Christie, then on to its playful and parodic treatment at the hands of Jorge Luis Borges (short stories), Alain Robbe-Grillet and Umberto Eco (novel), Tom Stoppard (theater) and Laura Mullen (poetry).  The readings will be sources for numerous writing exercises, and any of these can be expanded into a project for the workshop.  Although the readings are mostly in prose fiction, you are encouraged to experiment in any genre or combination thereof–poetry, prose poem, text and image, video, theater, etc.  Once we complete the readings, we will begin the workshop portion of the course with everyone having at least three chances to have their work read and commented on.  Please bring copies of your work the week before you are scheduled to be discussed.

Contents of Course: In the first half of the semester, we will examine three classic texts in detective fiction, and five experimental treatments of this genre, and try to get a handle on how detective fiction works, and what its characteristic components are. This will also give us an opportunity to examine what “genre” itself means. In the second half, we will have workshops on people’s creative projects.  You might choose to work on one long project (a story, a group of poems, a play, a film, etc.) and present it in installments.  For those who can use them, I offer a list of exercises that you might explore in your workshop submissions.

Requirements: You are allowed to miss no more than TWO CLASSES or their equivalent in partially missed classes to pass the course.  You should produce work for three workshops, you should participate in discussions in a way that reflects your thoughtful and engaged reading of the material, and you should have written comments to give people whose work is up for each workshop.  I’ll also schedule optional conferences during crit week to give you some final feedback on your writing–this is a good chance to go over rewritten material, for example.  

Required texts:
Sir Arthur Canon Doyle: A Study in Scarlet
Agatha Christie: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Tom Stoppard: “The Real Inspector Hound”
Edgar Allen Poe, “The Purloined Letter,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Murder of Marie Rogêt,” “The Man of the Crowd,” “William Wilson,” “The Imp of     the Perverse”
Jorge Luis Borges: “Death and the Compass,” “The Garden of the Forking Paths,” “Ibn Hakkan al-Bokhari, Dead in His Labyrinth,” from Collected Fictions.
Umberto Ecco: The Name of the Rose
Alain Robbe-Grillet: The Erasers
Laura Mullen: Murmur



I      8/30    Richard Burton’s melancholic, Baudelaire’s dandy, and the origins of Sherlock Holmes: Conan Doyle

II     9/6    Christie and the rules of genre

        9/11    Add/drop period ends

III    9/13    Stoppard and the relationship between detective story and parody

IV    9/20    Poe and Borges: detective story as geometry
V      9/27    Eco: detective story as social autopsy

VI     10/4    Robbe-Grillet: Oedipus as first detective

VII    10/11    Mullen: genre and poetic collage; detective fiction and gender

          10/26    email deadline for first group to workshop. On the 18th and after, students should bring in copies of their pieces for workshop and hand them out the week  before they are to be discussed.

VIII    10/18     Workshop:
IX       10/25    Workshop:
           10/30    last day to withdraw

X        11/1    Workshop:
XI       11/8    Workshop:
XII     11/15    Workshop:

           Nov. 21-25: Thanksgiving Break
XIII    11/29    Workshop:

Dec. 3-7: CRITIQUE WEEK (available for optional conferences)

XIV    12/13    Workshop and a small final project.

Background reading for detective novels:   

Edgar Allen Poe: “The Murders at the Rue Morgue”, “The Murder of Marie Roget”, “The Purloined Letter”, “The Imp of the Perverse”
Thomas De Quincey: “On Murder”
Gaston Leroux: The Mystery of the Yellow Room
Mary Elizabeth Braddon: The Trail of the Serpent
Wilkie Collins: The Moonstone, The Woman in White
Dickens: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Adventures of Sherlock Homes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Homes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes, etc.
Agatha Christie: Poirot novels, Miss Marple novels
Dorothy Sayers: Peter Wimsey novels
Georges Simenon: The Maigret novels
Otto Penzler, ed. The Big Book of Pulps and Black Mask Stories
Dashiell Hammett: The Thin Man, The Glass Key, The Maltese Falcon, The Continental Op, The Big Knockover, The Dain Curse
Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep, The Lady in the Lake, The High Window, Playback, Trouble is My Business, Farewell My Lovely
Ross MacDonald: Lew Archer novels
Chester Himes: If He Hollers Let Him Go, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Run Man Run
Rex Stout: Nero Wolf novels
Caleb Carr: The Alienist
Kobo Abe: Secret Rendevous; The Ruined Map
Paul Auster: The New York Trilogy
Italo Calvino: “Numbers in the Dark” from Numbers in the Dark
Michael Chabon: The Yiddish Policeman’s Union
G. K. Chesterton: The Man Who Was Thursday
Robert Coover: Noir
Philip K. Dick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Uberto Eco: The Name of the Rose, Foucault’s Pendulum
Brian Evenson: “The Sanza Affair” from Altman’s Tongue; “White Square” from The Wavering Knife; Last Days
Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time
Holly Hunter: “The Well of Horniness” from Clit Notes
John Leno: The Boy Detective Fails
Jonathan Lethem: Motherless in Brooklyn and Gun with Occasional Music
Alan Moore: The Watchmen
Frank Miller: The Dark Knight Returns
Laura Mullen: Murmur (see also Sherlock Holmes poems in The Surface)
Jeff Noonan: Nymphomation
Alain Robbe-Grillet: The Erasers
Alexander McCall Smith: The Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
Leonie Swann: Three Bags Full
Paco Ignacio Taibo, Subcomandante Marcos: The Uncomfortable Dead
Colson Whitehead: The Intuitionist
Pierre Bayard: Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?
Irwin, John: The Mystery to a Solution: Poe, Borges, and the Analytic Detective Story
McCann: Gumshoe America (a study of noir fiction)
John P. Muller and William J. Richardson : The Purloined Poe: Lacan, Derrida, and Psychoanalytic Reading
“The Big Sleep”
“The Glass Key”
“The Maltese Falcon”
“The Thin Man”
“Double Indemnity”
“M”, “Doctor Mabuse”, “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” (Fritz Lang)
“Rear Window”, “Vertigo”, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “The Thirty-nine Steps”, “Psycho” (Hitchcock)
“Touch of Evil”
“The Third Man”
“High and Low”, “Stray Dog”, “Yojimbo” (uses a plot based on Hammett’s Red Harvest)
“The Manchurian Candidate” (1959 version)
“Memories of Murder”
“The Pledge”
“The Singing Detective” (BBC version)
“Scotland, PA”
“Death and the Compass”
“Zen Noir”
 “No Country for Old Men,” “Fargo”, “Blood Simple”, “The Big Lebowski”, “The Man Who Wasn’t There” (the Coen Brothers)
“The Cure”, “Sceance” (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
“The Usual Suspects”
“The Illusionist”

© 2014 Amy England, all rights reserved