WRIT 5500                                                
Instructor: Amy England

The detective story is probably the most well established genre in the world, and the noir detective story its most well-established sub-genre.  It is so well known that one can evoke it in a single sentence or a few images, and this makes it an ideal laboratory for literary experimentation.  And then, the noir detective novel was, in its inception, itself a huge experiment in negotiating popular literary genres with stylistic parody styles, political and social critique, and explorations of the existentialist crisis of the modern condition.  

Contents of Course: In the first half of the semester, we will examine three classic noir texts, and four experimental treatments of this genre, and try to get a handle on how noir detective fiction works, and what its characteristic components are.  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.  We will also do some in-class writing that you may build on for longer projects.   

Requirements: You are allowed to miss no more than two classes or their equivalent in late arrivals to pass the course.  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.   Fifteen pages of written material is a good target for the semester.  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:
Raymond Chandler: Farewell, My Lovely
Brian Evenson: Last Days
Dashiell Hammett: The Maltese Falcon
Chester Himes: Run Man Run
Holly Hughes: Clit Notes
Jonathon Lethem: Gun, with Occasional Music
Sean McCann: Gumshoe America
Laura Mullen: Murmur


I    Sept. 2    Hammett, The Maltese Falcon; McCann, chapt. 2 (if time permits you, the introduction and first chapter are relevant also)    

II    Sept. 9    Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely; McCann, chapt. 3    

Sept. 14th: Add/drop period ends
III    Sept. 16    Noir and race: Himes, Run Man Run; McCann, chapt. 5    

IV    Sept. 23    Noir and gender: Hughes, “The Well of Horniness” and “The Lady Dick” (although anyone particularly interested in this author should look at the other pieces in the anthology as well, where she is a little more expository about her methods and goals as an artist)    

V       Sept. 30    Melding genres: Lethem, Gun, with Occasional Music

VI       Oct. 4        Genre and collage: Mullen, Murmur

VII      Oct. 11    Noir and violence: Evenson, Last Days

VIII    Oct. 18    Workshop

IX       Oct. 25    Workshop
X        Nov. 1        Workshop

Nov. 2: last day to withdraw

XI    Nov. 8        Workshop

XII    Nov. 15    Workshop

          THANKSGIVING: Nov. 25

XIII    Nov. 29    Final Workshop
XIV    Dec. 6        CRIT WEEK, optional conferences
XV      Dec. 13    Presentation of final projects (to be decided)

For additional reading suggestions, see the reading list at the end of the first detective seminar syllabus.

© 2014 Amy England, all rights reserved