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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2009

E 379S • Crime Fiction

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34595 TTh
8:00 AM-9:30 AM
PAR 105
Basse, J

Course Description

As part of our University-directed self-assessment project, the English Department has initiated an ePortfolio program for English majors. You will be asked to submit, in electronic form, two documents--a one page essay on the English major and a copy of your final paper for the seminar. Additionally, you will be asked to complete a brief four question survey. During the semester, you will receive details from your instructor or from the English Department on completing the survey and submitting the documents on your senior seminar's Blackboard website.

Novels of detection? Detective stories? Gangster novels? Roman noir? Police procedurals? The genre "crime fiction" has always been hard to define, and has been through many changes from E.A. Poe's short stories to Michael Connelly's novels. Influenced by the times when they were written they reflect the society in which their authors lived, and tell much about the fears of the readership. We will study the main changes that occurred between the origin and nowadays. After the predominance of a British tradition (Arthur Conan Doyle, etc.), the hard-boiled school took over (Hammett, Chandler) transforming crime fiction into a truly American genre, and radically modifying the character of the detective. In more contemporary novels realism is a key element, whether it be in the description of violence or in the minute representation of the police investigation and of the legal system. Yet some writers parody the genre (Brautigan, etc.), and others play with the codes and turn the original quest for truth into a maze of reflections and identities (Auster).

Grading Policy

Participation: 20%
One presentation: 20%
Final research paper: 60%


Edgar Allan Poe, Murders in the Rue Morgue
Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet
Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
Dashiell Hammett, The Glass Key
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Jim Thompson, The Killer Inside Me
James Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice
Paul Auster, City of Glass


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