Genres, 1890 to the Present: Crime Fiction (blended)

Crime Fiction
ENGL 4109/7109
Nancy West
Course Description

This course provides a history of British and American crime fiction, beginning with the sensation novels of the 1860s and going up to psychological thrillers of the present. Be prepared: we’ll read a lot in this course. But these are the kind of books you won’t want to put down. We’ll begin with Wilkie Collins’s page-turningThe Woman in White, a best-selling sensation when it appeared in 1860. Also on our docket are select stories from the classic series, Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle. We move into the 20th century with Agatha Christie’s deliciously suspenseful Murder on the Orient Express. We’ll also read Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, a jaw-dropping book about stolen identity; Walter Moseley’s groundbreaking Devil in a Blue Dress, which gave us the first black detective with mass appeal; Sarah Waters’ brilliant historical novel, Fingersmith; and, finally, Alex Marwood’s The Darkest Secret, a recent psychological thriller that sent critics everywhere into rapture. Course lectures will provide historical and literary contexts, making sure to introduce students to other crime writers who, for a variety of reasons, have not gotten the recognition they deserve. These include women like Anna Katharine Green, whose 1887 detective novel, The Leavenworth Case, was a blockbusting sensation before Sherlock Holmes; and current crime writers of color like Delia Pitts and Isabella Maldonado.

Assignments include a class presentation; weekly responses to the readings; and a researched essay, 8-10pp.