This course will explore the origins of detective fiction in Britain and Europe in the twentieth century, charting the Golden Age of British Detective Fiction and post-war European developments in the genre. Our main texts will be:
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie, Decline of the English Murder - George Orwell, The Day of the Owl - Leonardo Sciascia, Have Mercy On Us All - Fred Vargas and A Murder of Quality - John Le Carre.
Detective Fiction evolved in Britain, North America and Europe in the mid to late nineteenth century. We will follow these origins and discuss the Golden Age of British Crime Fiction, and how it was codified by Ronald Knox. We shall investigate how far Christie’s vision of her arch crime-solver Poirot conforms to these precepts.
We shall also discuss how dis-satisfaction with this form of crime fiction sets in as Empire, certainty and progress stall in the 1930s and 40s, and how after World War Two, the genre mutates in the post-war years, as it becomes concerned with the problems of realism, existentialism and the banality of evil. We will discover these changes in the work of the remarkable Leonardo Sciascia, who is one of Italy’s great twentieth century writers.
The course will conclude by exploring John Le Carre and the contemporary French writer Fred Vargas.
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