College Of Arts And Sciences | Cloak and Dagger: Detectives and Spies from Sherlock Holmes to James Bond
E103 | 0070 | Bondanella, P.


Introduces students to one of the most basic concepts of literary
criticism – literary genres – with specific reference to a specific
popular genre, the so-called “thriller.” “Thriller” is a term that
came into use in the late nineteenth century and was applied not only
to the detective story, the most famous examples of which were A.
Conan Doyle’s tales about Sherlock Holmes, but also to a closely-
related literary genre, the spy novel, that also attained great
popularity during the period. The term “thriller” is often
unfortunately employed to denigrate books relegated to this generic
category. The primary focus of my course will be to teach students
how to understand the “rules of the game,” the conventions and
traditions that govern any literary genre, with specific reference to
the “thriller” as exemplified by selected detective and spy stories
in both literature and the cinema. It is my hope that students will
apply the lessons they learn about genre in this class to any
literary genre, not only genres typical of popular culture but also
those associated primarily with “serious” literature (the epic,
tragedy, the sonnet, etc.).

Students will be asked to read the detective fiction of Poe, Conan
Doyle, Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Umberto Eco. We shall
also examine several detective films in the film noir tradition, The
Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. For the spy genre, we shall read
works by John Le Carré and examine two James Bond films – one before
the end of Communism and one taking place after the fall of the
Berlin Wall. Students will be asked to take a number of in-class
quizzes and to write 3 brief critical essays plus discussion in
groups.