A MAXIMUM OF FIVE FILMS ARE REQUIRED AND WILL BE SHOWN ON TUESDAY EVENINGS DURING THE SEMESTER
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, including The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. For the spy genre, we shall read at least one James Bond novel by Ian Fleming and a Cold War spy novel by John Le Carré. In addition, we shall screen two very different James Bond films: one made during the height of the Cold War and one shot after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Students will be given several written exams, and several critical essays on the primary texts or films studied will be assigned. I also expect them to take an active part in discussion sections. In addition to the primary texts ordered for the class, a number of critical essays will be placed on electronic reserve in the Main Library. These brief essays will help define the thriller and will give the class a better idea of how these novels and films have developed over the past century.
Text books for this course will be on sale only at the Friends of Art Bookstore in the Fine Arts Building.