French and Italian | Cloak and Dagger
E103 | 0070 | Prof. Peter Bondanella

Cloak and Dagger 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
literature 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 three brief critical essays plus
discussion in groups.

For more information, please contact the instructor at