ENG-299T.4 Thief-making & Thief-taking: Nineteenth-century Crime Literature
The nineteenth century was immersed in the cultural project of defining criminality and, through the gradual professionalization of the police, constructing the criminal's nemesis, the detective. Through popular crime fiction, newspaper accounts of an actual criminal case, and articles from nineteenth-century periodicals, we will explore how the nineteenth-century fascination with crime and detectives was shaped by preoccupations with the construction of gender, class dynamics, and the tension between the didactic and entertainment functions of popular fiction. We will also turn the spotlight on ourselves, considering why we might sustain that fascination today and why mystery stories remain one of the most widely read genres. As we address these questions, we'll be making forays into interpretative strategies based on Marxist, cultural studies, psychoanalytic, and narrative literary theories. Texts include Charles Dickens' Newgate novel, Oliver Twist Wilkie Collins' sensation novel, Woman in White; selected short stories featuring the exploits of Sherlock Holmes; and at least one late twentieth-century text adopting and adapting the figure of Sherlock Holmes.