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Detective Fiction

Detective fiction is one of the most popular forms of narrative, appealing to writers and readers with widely diverse interests and ideologies. This class investigates why this is so in the context of a wide range of detective fiction from around the world, exploring influential masterpieces and cult classics. The focus of this course will be on the development of the genre, the significance of the sites of criminal investigation, and on the varying characters and motives of the detectives, criminals and, just as importantly, writers and readers.
  • Who is it for?

    The course is suitable for anyone with an interest in literature, either as a general reader on in the wider context of literary history. No prior knowledge is required. If you do have some experience of studying literature you should also find this course a suitable extension and deepening of your knowledge and understanding of the texts and contexts.

  • What does it cover?

    This course covers a range of popular literature from the 19th and 20th centuries, examining texts and contexts in detail to offer a comprehensive study of traditions and trends in detective fiction. Why, for example, is the figure of the amateur detective globally popular? What are the connections between detective fiction and an urban environment? What are the writers' attitudes to history, politics and race? How do we define the social dynamics of the detective story? What is the precise definition of a detective story - and a good detective story?

    Suggested Texts (subject to change)

    Jorge Luis Borges, 'Death and the Compass'
    Arthur Conan Doyle, 'A Scandal in Bohemia' and 'The Speckled Band'
    Chester Himes, Cotton Comes to Harlem
    Patrick Mondiano, Dora Bruder
    Sarah Paretsky, 'Dealer's Choice'
    Edgar Allan Poe, 'The Purloined Letter' and 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue'
    Derek Raymond, He Died With His Eyes Open
    Georges Simenon, Pietr the Latvian

    Films (subject to change)

    John Huston, The Maltese Falcon (1941)
    Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (1958)
    Akira Kurasawa, Stray Dog (1949)


    By the end of the course, you should
    ' understand the circumstances of the production of each text
    ' identify and interpret approaches to themes of confinement and escape in literature
    ' acquire a rich range of textual, contextual, and critical knowledge of each text and author

  • What will it be like?

    Classes will typically consist of an introduction to the topic and relevant themes by the tutor; close reading of extracts from the texts; open discussion of the themes evoked by the texts; small group work.

    We will assess your expectations of the course in the first session, and we will monitor your progress through class discussion.

  • What else do I need to buy or do?

    It is not essential but highly recommended that you have a hard-copy of the texts we study. The tutor will circulate a guide to recommended editions before the first meeting. Selected extracts from the texts, and further supporting material, will also be made available to you.

  • What could it lead to?

    Further literature classes at the Mary Ward Centre. Please see the Centre's website for details.

Available Courses

Detective Fiction

Detective fiction is one of the most popular forms of narrative, appealing to writers and readers with widely diverse interests and ideologies. This class investigates why this is so in the context of a wide range of detective fiction from around the world, exploring influential masterpieces and cult classics. The focus of this course will be on the development of the genre, the significance of the sites of criminal investigation, and on the varying characters and motives of the detectives, criminals and, just as importantly, writers and readers.

30 April 2025 – 16 July 2025
Wednesday, 18:30 to 20:30
Course Code:449
£175 / £61
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
Add to basket
30 April 2025 – 16 July 2025
Wednesday, 14:00 to 16:00
Course Code:448
£139 / £49
12 Meetings
High Street, Stratford
Add to basket

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Tuesday, 18:30 to 20:30
Course Code:451
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High Street, Stratford
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Meet The Tutor

For more information contact The Departmental Administrator at admin@marywardcentre.ac.uk

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