Eng e-198 1Modern American Crime Narratives Lecture Course Fall 2010

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Instructor: Jason W. Stevens

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ENG E-198 1Modern American Crime Narratives

Lecture Course Fall 2010
Beginning with nineteenth century predecessors (especially the classical detective novel), we will cover modern American crime narratives, emphasizing the hard-boiled and noir fiction that flourished between the Jazz Age and the Cold War as well as the police procedural and the true crime novel. Popular texts will be approached as examples of craft art which have provided paradigms for major American authors, including William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Norman Mailer. Sources will include films such as The Godfather, Blade Runner, and The Dark Knight.

Course Schedule

Week 1 (for Th. Sept. 2)
I. Poe’s Dupin: the Detective and the Irrational
“Murders in the Rue Morgue”

“The Purloined Letter”

Secondary reading:

Reynolds, selections from Beneath the American Renaissance

Day, “The Gothic and the Creation of the Detective,” In the Circles of Fear and Desire
Week 2 (for Sept. 7, 9)
II. The Classical Detective Story: Imitation and Parody
Conan Doyle, “The Musgrave Ritual,” “Scandal in Bohemia,” “The Final Problem”

Mark Twain, “A Double-Barreled Detective Story”

Ellery Queen, “The Mad Tea Party”
Secondary reading:

Moretti, “Clues,” from Signs Taken for Wonders

*Recommended reading:

S. S. Van Dine, “Twenty Rules for Writing Mystery Stories”

Wilson, “Why Do People Read Mystery Fiction?

Week 3 (for Sept. 14, 16)
III. The Hard-boiled Tradition and the American Private Eye
Hemingway, “The Killers”

Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

Mencken, “American Slang,” from The American Language

Week 4 (for Sept. 21, 23)
IV. The Hard-boiled Writer in Hollywood
Chandler, The Little Sister

____, “The Simple Art of Murder” [essay]

____, “Beer in the Sergeant Major’s Hat, or Dedicated to Ernest Hemingway”
Screening: Murder My Sweet (1944)
*Recommended reading:

Haut, “Under the Sign of Hollywood: Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler,” from Heartbreak and Vine

Mike Davis, “Sunshine or Noir?” City of Quartz.

Week 5 (for Sept. 28, 30)
V. From Outlaws to Gangsters: Crime as the Folklore of Capitalist Society
Hammett, Red Harvest
Screening: The Godfather (1972)
Secondary reading:

Slotkin, “Outlaws, Detectives, and Dime Novel Populism,” from Gunfighter Nation

Week 6 (for Oct. 5, 7)
VI. Depression-era Anti-Heroes and Fatal Women
Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice

McCoy, They Shoot Horses Don’t They?

*Recommended reading:

Douglas, Ann. “The Dark Legend of Matricide,” from Terrible Honesty

Weeks 7-8
VII. Murder and (High) Modernism
Wk 7 (for Oct. 12, 14)
Faulkner, Sanctuary
Secondary reading:

Naremore, “Modernism and Blood Melodrama,” from More Than Night

Wk 8 (for Oct. 19, 21)
Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Secondary reading:

Kermode, “Secrets and Narrative Sequence” from The Art of Telling

Week 9 (for Oct. 26, 28)
VIII. Black on Noir: Crime and Protest Fiction
Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go
Secondary reading:

Wright, “How Bigger Was Born” [essay]

Etienne Borger, “Serie Noire,” The Big Book of Noir

Week 10 (for Nov. 2, 4)
IX. The Theological Crime Story
O’Connor, “A Good Man is Hard to Find”

Malamud, The Assistant

Week 11 (for Nov. 9)
X. The Psychopathic Hero I. Emergence in WW2 and the Cold War
Mailer, An American Dream
Secondary reading:

Mailer, “The White Negro” [essay]

*Recommended reading:

Robert Lindner, “Introduction,” Rebel Without a Cause

Week 12 (for Nov. 16, 18)
XI. The True Crime Novel
Capote, In Cold Blood

Grobel, Conversations with Capote. pp. 109-127.

Screening: Brooks, In Cold Blood (1967)

Week 13 (for Nov. 23)
XII. The Psychopathic Hero II. Comic Book Legends and Post 9/11 Themes
Alan Moore, The Killing Joke [on reserve]

Screening: The Dark Knight

Week 14 (for Nov. 30, Dec. 2)
XIII. Cyberpunk Crime Fiction: Surveillance, Paranoia, and Simulacrum
Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Screening: Blade Runner
Secondary reading:

D. A. Miller, “The Novel and the Police” from The Novel and The Police

Requirements: Weekly readings, emailed questions, online discussion forum (40% of your grade), and, for a final project (60% of your grade),
A) Create your own crime literature/short film, and include a 3-5 page critical essay

analyzing it within a formal and historical tradition.

B) A 12 page essay, including 4 primary and secondary sources.
Assignment due on December 13 at 5pm EST; proposal due November 18 at 5pm EST.

[Please see course website for more details on requirements and the assignment]

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