Reading Literature: The Mystery

The Mystery
English 1100
Section 1
Nancy West
Arts and Science 1
Course Description

Focusing on mystery novels and short stories, as well as celebrated essays on crime and literature, this course is designed to deepen your understanding of British and American literature. We will begin with classic mystery writers like Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, then move onto some of today’s most respected and popular practitioners of the genre, including local writer Gillian Flynn. Occasionally, writers who specialize in mystery fiction will join us. Although this is a lecture course where you will learn a great deal of literary and cultural history, we will spend a good portion of our time talking with each other about these books and the issues they raise. We will also spend a lot of time talking about how to read literature and develop your skills in analyzing voice, tone, structure, style, and other components of written texts. Key to this course is the question of why mysteries are so popular: What pleasures do they give us? Why are so many mystery writers women, and what is it about mystery writing that attracts female readers especially? What do mysteries reveal about the enjoyments and challenges of reading itself?

Goals of the course:

  • To help you become a more attentive and imaginative reader
  • To facilitate stimulating discussions about the meanings and values we attribute to reading
  • To familiarize you with the conventions of reading novels; short stories; and essays
  • To have you study one of the most popular and enduring genres of literature in-depth