English 24

Freshman Seminar: Bullets Across the Bay--Detective Narratives Set in San Francisco

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2012 Hutson, Richard
W 9-10 203 Wheeler

Book List

Hammett, Dashiell: The Maltese Falcon; Mersereau, John: Murder Loves Company; Muller, Marcia: Dead Midnight

Other Readings and Media

There will be films as required texts.


Why are detective novels set in a place?  San Francisco has provided a favorite setting for the detective story since the work of Dashiell Hammett, especially with the publication of The Maltese Falcon (1930).  Of course, San Francisco is a city, but it is also a city that has been branded in certain ways.  Detective writers take into account this fairly abstract sense of the meaning of San Francisco.  And so we will look at some major detective stories set in San Francisco with its distinctive history and geography.  Novels for the course are The Maltese Falcon, Murder Loves Company, and Dead Midnight.  We will also screen some major films of detective narratives set in San Francisco, like Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Siegel’s Dirty Harry, Wang’s Chan is Missing.  A short paper will be due at the end of the semester: students should pick a narrative and discuss the meaning of San Francisco for that novel or film.

This course coincides with the Bancroft’s display of their collection of detective stories set in San Francisco, “Bullets Across the Bay.”  See the display in the main gallery (the Brown gallery) of Doe Library.

This 1-unit course may not be counted as one of the twelve courses required to complete the English major.

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