English R1A

Reading and Composition: Literary Sleuths

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
4 Spring 2005 Kristine Ha
MWF 3 - 4 pm 235 Dwinelle Hall

Other Readings and Media

"Auster, Paul. City of Glass

Christie, Agatha. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Doyle, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet

Poe, Edgar Allen. stories (in the course reader)

Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet (Pelican Shakespeare)

Strunk and White. Elements of Style

Course Reader "


"From Sherlock Holmes to Columbo, fictional detectives have captured the popular imagination in books, movies, and television. These figures are often set apart from the crowd by their extraordinary skills in perception, analysis, and deduction as well as the accompanying quirks of personality, demeanor, and appearance. This course will examine detective fiction in various narrative works, focusing on the peculiar creatures we will call 'literary sleuths' and their relation to narrative construction. As figures who negotiate a chaotic field of information and weave together disparate details into a coherent whole, literary sleuths also serve as a model of critical investigation and interpretation. We will begin with Doyle's Sherlock Holmes-arguably the most famous sleuth in popular culture-and other detectives whose climactic, and at times hammy, scenes of discovery and revelation speak to their function as skillful weavers of narrative. Moreover, we will examine the complex relationship between the reader/critic and these literary detectives, especially in works which make sorting information and creating narrative coherence difficult. What holds these narratives together when the case itself cannot be solved or when the detective figure is less skillful and charismatic than Holmes or Poirot?

In addition to primary texts, we will read some critical material to help complicate and expand our initial model of the literary critic as detective. Finally, and most importantly, we will examine the crucial elements of composition (style, argumentation, persuasion, revision) by exploring how form (e.g. syntax, structure, and genre), in which the content is shaped, performs specific rhetorical and investigative functions in these texts. Specific works on writing and style will accompany our list of detective fictions to help us form the bridge between reading/investigation and writing/argumentation. You will write thirty-three pages for this course: an initial three page diagnostic essay, 4 five-page essays, and 10 one-page short responses to the week's reading. For the 4 five-page essays, we will especially focus on the process of revision in peer-editing sessions and individual conferences with me. "

Back to Semester List