Comparative Literature | Detective, Mystery, & Horror Lit.
C217 | 1120 | Jim Lynch
*Satisfies COAS AHLA requirement*
Edgar Allen Poe is not only one of our finest writers of "tales of
terror," but is also widely credited with being the originator of
analytic detective fiction. His career suggests that these two
literary forms are in some way connected, and that what links them is
a delight in horror which both fascinated Poe and also continues to
attract an audience in our own time.
"We stand upon the brink of a precipice. We peer into the abyss - we
grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from danger.
Unaccountably we remain."
E.A. Poe, "The Imp of the Perverse"
By examining the ways in which various writers of detective and horror
fiction manipulate their readers (as well as the reader's role in the
creation of such texts); our class will investigate the connection
between mystery and horror. We will ask ourselves: Why do we like to
be frightened, at least in literature? What purpose does a detective
serve for his or her author and reader? What are the crucial
similarities between detective fiction's criminals and horror
We will focus on texts in which horror and mystery are combined and
consider the detective figures and writing strategies of authors such
as E.A. Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dashiell Hammett, Jorge Luis
Borges, Raymond Chandler, Robert Louis Stevenson, Philip K. Dick, and
Paul Auster. We will also take into account such films as The Big
Sleep, L.A. Confidential, Seven, Angel Heart, Blade Runner, Dark City,
Throughout the semester we will consider how authors and directors
affect their audiences, paying particular attention to lines of
development and patterns of continuity and change in detective
literature and film. Our questions will in part be shaped by the
views of authors and critics such as Sigmund Freud, E.A. Poe, Umberto
Eco, Jorge Luis Borges, and other writers on the art of detective
fiction, but we will also explore and examine our own responses to the
Required written work: a weekly reading/viewing journal; two 3-5 page
papers; and one short presentation on one of the films.
"The detective story makes it possible to experience without danger
all the excitement, passion, and desirousness which must be repressed
in a humanitarian ordering of life."