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Tanvi P Patel
ENGL 242
Seattle Campus

Reading Prose Fiction

Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.

Class description

From the ingenuity of detective Auguste Dupin to the shenanigans of Sam Spade, crime fiction has enjoyed immense popularity, creativity and criticism in the 19th and 20th century. As print media expanded over Britain and the US, crime fiction became the prominent readers-choice genre by 1900. In time, the genre has experienced much development with offshoot categories like Detective fiction, the whodunit, psychological thrillers, locked room mysteries, and forensic science narratives. This course explores the construction of the genre and prominent crime writers of both British and American fiction in the 19th and 20th century. Specifically, the class will consider the historical, cultural and political shifts occurring during the rise of crime fiction and through its many trajectories. Students will be asked to think critically about central concepts in the genre such as truth, justice, criminality, victim and villain. How are these terms redefined over time? Furthermore, the class will look at the cultural implications of authority and consider the ways in which the social problems of the time find solution with the help of the genre. How does the genre (re)establish social order? Was there a need for monikers of authority when detective fiction became popular? If so, what are the origins of such necessities? What does the onset of crime noir suggest about the population and politics of the mid-20th century? Does the genre pose literary merit? The course demands a lot of reading of both primary and secondary sources. Required texts include, but are not limited to, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, and The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We will also be considering works by Edgar Allen Poe, Agatha Christie and a few others from the Longman Anthology of Detective Fiction that will be used to generate critical analysis and discussion so that students can attain a better understanding of the ways in which crime fiction influences, rewrites, examines, and contradicts the life and times of its readers. We will inspect a range of literary genres including the novel, novella and short story. These texts will serve as springboards for student discussions and papers.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
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Last Update by Tanvi P Patel
Date: 06/05/2012