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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Centre for Open Learning : Literature, Languages and Cultures

Undergraduate Course: The Great Detectives: The Americans (LLLG07115)

Course Outline
SchoolCentre for Open Learning CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryDetective fiction is a valuable barometer for the social and political climate of a country. This course explores the development of detective fiction in America from the Golden Age of Chandler and Hammett to its engagement in recent issues and events such as Hurricane Katrina. We shall explore the ways in which detective fiction expresses and reflects the changing zeitgeist of America, and how American writers have made use of, and further developed, traditional forms of the genre.
Course description We shall locate and explore the beginnings of American pulp detective fiction through Hammett's creation of the iconic private eye, the Continental Op, and identify some key characteristics of detective fiction when examining Raymond Chandler's outwardly tough detective Philip Marlowe. We shall further consider Chandler's assertion in his essay 'The Simple Art of Murder', that detective fiction should be realistic, and that the detective hero must be able to operate in realistic conditions.

The fiction of Thomas Harris will invite us to explore the development of serial killer fiction, notably the creation of Hannibal Lecter, himself both a killer and consultant.

Throughout the course, we shall consider the interaction between the detective and other characters, paying particular attention to language. Students will look closely at excerpts of both dialogue and descriptive passages, and will be encouraged to use recognised literary critical terminology during in-class discussion and in written work.

The work of Paul Auster will allow us to examine the postmodern detective novel and discuss how far critics' new terms such as 'soft-boiled detective fiction', 'meta-detective fiction' or 'anti-detective fiction' are representative. We shall consider how American detective fiction engages with catastrophic national events, such as Hurricane Katrina, exploring a well-established detective series by James Lee Burke in relation to the 'real world' aftermath of Katrina and its crimes.

Classes will consist of lectures, providing a contextual overview of each novel, followed by a guided discussion on themes, characterisation, language, plot, and narrative style. We shall analyse contemporary responses and reactions to the novels by evaluating and assessing ideas from non-literary texts such as criticism or journalism.

The course will be taught in a small seminar setting, where participation will be supported and encouraged.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Analyse and evaluate the distinctive characteristics of detective fiction through close reading, using recognised literary critical terminology and methodologies;
  2. Articulate knowledge and understanding of how the detective genre has developed and diversified across America;
  3. Construct, present and evaluate arguments coherently;
  4. Analyse contemporary responses and reactions to the novels by evaluating and assessing ideas from non-literary texts such as criticism or journalism;
  5. Apply knowledge of cultural, political and socio-historical contexts in arguments.
Reading List
Hammett, Dashiell., 2012. Red Harvest. London: Orion.
Chandler, Raymond., 2010. Farewell My Lovely. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Harris, Thomas., 2009. Red Dragon. London: Arrow.
Auster, Paul., 2011 New York Trilogy. London: Faber.
Burke, James Lee., 2007. The Tin Roof Blowdown. London: Orion.
Priestman, Martin ed., 2003. The Cambridge Companion to Detective Fiction. Cambridge: CUP.
Scaggs, John, 2005. Crime Fiction. London: Routledge.
Plain, Gill, 2001. Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Nickerson, Catherine Ross ed., 2010. The Cambridge Companion to American Crime Fiction. Cambridge: CUP.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Confidence in discussing texts and expressing opinions
Ability to assess secondary material
Ability to articulate knowledge and arguments coherently
Course organiserMs Rachael King
Course secretaryMs Kameliya Skerleva
Tel: (0131 6)51 1855
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