E177 – Detective Fiction

Professor Caroline Levine – (Spring 2013)

Isn’t it strange that our culture is so easily entertained by murder? How did we get comfortable with sinister butlers, hardboiled cops, red herrings, and private eyes? What kinds of people detect, and what kinds of readers respond to detection? And how, exactly, does the detective arrive at a convincing knowledge of the crime? Some scholars argue that detective fiction is a reassuring kind of fiction, making us feel that disruptive social forces will eventually be brought to justice; others claim that we are as likely to root for the lawless as for the cops. We’ll look for answers to these questions by reading short stories by Poe, Conan Doyle, Hammett, Chandler, and Borges as well as several novels: The Woman in White, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Cotton Comes to Harlem. We’ll also watch the first season of HBO’s series, The Wire. And we’ll read about historians, philosophers, scientists, and literary critics who have taken the fictional detective seriously as a model for their own quest for knowledge.


Main Lectures –

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:oo – 11:50 p.m. in 3650 Humanities Building


My Discussion Sections (301, 302, and 303):

301: F 8:50-9:40 a. m. in Humanities 2115

302: F 9:55-10:45 a.m. in Humanities 2625

303: F 11:00-11:50 a.m. in Humanities 2111

Discussion Section Syllabus

The bulk of our materials for this course may be located on our course’s Learn@UW page