Course Details

050:306:90 - American Detective Fiction and Film

  • Course ID: 050:306:90
  • Credits: 3
  • Instructor Name: McElhinney

The detective, as a preeminent figure in all forms of American popular culture, has become the subject of a variety of theoretical exploration. By investigating that figure, this class will explore how the genre embodies all the contradictions of American society and the ways in which literature and the media attempt to handle those contradictions. Issues of class, gender, and race; the interaction of film and literature; and generic evolution are fundamental to any understanding of the American detective in all of his or her forms. Crime Fiction and Film flourished in the 20th Century. The genre birthed great masterpieces, haunting memoirs, the urban experience novel, and what is commonly (and now fashionably) known as “Pimp Lit.” These crime narratives have influenced, provoked and inspired subsequent generations and reached beyond the world of books into cinema, TV, popular music, and society-at-large. While offering the action and thrills demanded of the crime genre, these texts also importantly give first-hand ethnographic ‘ground-zero’ accounts of lifestyles and communities extra to the mainstream. What is the intersection of crime, poverty, lack of education, and drugs? What are the responsibility and burdens of first responders? Is our legal system just? How is prison reform possible? What are values of public education? This class will explore and celebrate Crime Fiction and Film while also examining historical legal cases, decisions and transcript that present a historical narrative parallel to the fictional development of the genre. Together, the class will seek to understand what these works says about identity, economy, politics, gender and race relations within the United States of America.