ENGL 13186-06: Mystery Fiction

Instructor: Margaret Doody

Literature University Seminar

This course will deal with detection and mystery in fiction from Sophocles to Dashiell Hammett, Agatha Christie and Walter Mosley. We follow the detective and the criminal (often strangely connected). That pursuit encourages us to consider various genres, including classic tragedy, the Gothic novel, the “thriller,” film noir. Moving into the dark Paris streets of Poe’s Dupin, the foggy London of Sherlock Holmes, or the pleasant Chinese tea-gardens and rough highways known to Judge Dee, readers hope to be surprised. Such a repellent matter as murder presented in close association with normal social life and desires evidently provides strong entertainment. Encountering important concepts such as “tragedy,” “realism,” or “the Gothic,” we will consider the various kinds of pleasure the “mystery story” offers us. The study of “mystery” turns us towards philosophical questions regarding good and evil, revenge and justice, guilt and the law, the appeal of the ugly and the “sublime.” We will read works by writers of some of the world’s best short stories: Hawthorne, Hoffman, Poe, Doyle, and Chesterton.

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