Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 1.5 hours / session


This course consists of readings in the history of the form of the detective story, from the 19th-century to the present. It involves studies in questions of knowing, from materialist puzzles through metaphysical meditations to elegant whimsy, from murder in an English country village to crowned jewels buried in a footnote.


Because we'll do much of the work of this subject through discussions, naturally I'll expect you to be actively here during class and to practice the skills of a good participant: informed attention, preparation, helpful contribution, talking, assimilation, generous and intelligent listening, and mutual respect.


Do all the readings. We'll have quizzes every week or so. Results of those quizzes account for ca. 25% of the final grade.

Quizzes and Exam

Frequent quizzes; short final exercise.


In class work, including seminar skills 2/3
Written work, quizzes, and exam 1/3


Lec # Topics
1 High Art, Hermenutics, Detection, and Suspense

Modes: Oedipus and Theseus

Typology: The Hidden Treasure, The Locked Room, the Detective-as-Suspect
2 Nature and Hieroglyphics


Cryptography as Process and as Metaphor
3 Doubling

Self-Consciousness as Method and Disguise

Materialism, Claustrophobic Homes, Locked Rooms
4 Materialism and Identity

The Advantages of Empiricism are the Disadvantages of Empiricism

Why Conan Doyle Killed Off Holmes to Write about Victorian Faeries
5 Self and Self-Revelation

Oedipal Resistances

Retrospective Narratives
6 The Position of the Observer

Small Town, Country House, Sexual Demimonde, Moving Train
7 McGuffins, Clewes, Histories

The Detective as Knight Errant

Film Noir as Style and as Moral Orientation
8 Deep Focus

Politics and Representation

Does Rosebud Even Matter?

Kane's Women
9 Doubling and the Mind-Body Nexus

Completing Dupin

The Double-Mirror Paradigm of Self-Consciousness

Evidence, Clues, Solution: Elusive Pleasures
10 Guilt and Transference

The Pleasure of Looking through Other People's Windows

The Secret in the Marsh: Coming Clean about Secrets
11 The Hidden Jewels

Doubling and Narcissism

"The Mystery to a Solution"