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EN334 Crime Fiction, Nation and Empire: Britain 1850-1947

This module is now updated for 2019-20

From 2019/20, there will be two new module codes:
Intermediate Year: EN2E7
Final Year: EN3E7
*Please ensure that you register for the correct code for your year of study*

Tuesday 10:30-12:00, Thursday 10:00-11:30; 10:30-12:00; 1:00-2:30.
Friday 9:00-10:30, 11:00-12:30.


This module will help the students reach an understanding of the central importance of the practices and discourses of crime, law, order and policing to the formation of British national and imperial power/identities from 1850-1947. By focusing on a number of popular narratives of crime, the module will invite an analysis of how they both affirmed and subverted the circuits of British national (ist) and imperial (ist) power. This course resonates with the issues of British nationalism, imperialism and the cultural/material politics of such genres as the novel that are raised in other degree-level modules such as the European Novel, Literary and Cultural Theory, C19 English Novel. The theoretical concerns regarding colonial and postcolonial cultural practices that are examined in modules such as New Literatures in English will also be taken up here. Students will be introduced to a range of primary, critical and historical/archival materials. They will have to analyze and assess theories and narratives of nation, empire, class, ethnicity to trace the traffic between literature, law and power at specific historical moments in British and world history. Crucially, they will develop skills required to assess the lines of continuity that link imperial Britain, to the contemporary neo- or late-imperial global dispensation.

This information is relevant for 2019/2020.

Teaching: Seminars per week: 1 (@1.30 hrs).
Total Contact Hours: 30
Module Duration: 2 terms (20 weeks)

Assessment Methods:
Intermediate Years: 2 X 3000-word essays; 1 X 1000-word citation/bibliography exercise

Final Year: 2 X 4000-word essays; 1X1000-word citation/bibliography exercise

Exchange students with us for the full academic term adhere to the same assessment methods detailed above.

Exchange students with us for one term only, will submit a 2,000 word essay on the last Tuesday of the term they complete.

The deadlines will appear on your personal time-tables, but for the purposes of information, they are:

First essay: Term 1, Friday, Week 11

Second essay+ Citation/Bibliography Exercise: Term 3, Friday, Week 2

Information on submission here
Information on referencing here

Term 1
Wk.1. Introduction: Approaches to British crime, fiction, nationalism and empire 1850-1914
Wk.2. Charles Dickens, Bleak House I
Wk.3. Charles Dickens, Bleak House II
Wk.4. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White 
Wk.5. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone
Wk.6. Reading Week
Wk.7. Mary Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret
Wk.8. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four
Wk.9. Arthur Conan Doyle, Selected Short Stories from, The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes:
- '
The Speckled Band'
- 'The Blanched Soldier'
- 'The Crooked Man'
Wk.10 R.Austin Freeman, "The Mystery of 31 New Inn"; L.T.Meade and Clifford Halifax, "The Adventures of a Man of Science: The Sleeping Sickness" (Adventures of a Man of Science); (The Mystery of 31 New Inn available here:

Term 2:
Wk.1. Introduction: Reading crime during imperial twilight, Britain 1910-1947
Wk.2. G.K.Chesterton, The Innocence of Father Brown stories in The Penguin Complete Father Brown
Wk.3. Agatha Christie, The Murder at the Vicarage (Harper Collins, 2016)
Wk.4. Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile (Harper Collins, 2014)
Wk.5. Dorothy Sayers, Strong Poison (Hodder Paperbacks, 1968)
Wk.6. Reading Week
Wk.7. Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night (Hodder Paperbacks, 2016)
Wk.8. Ngaio Marsh, Surfeit of Lampreys
Wk.9. Ngaio Marsh, Death and the Dancing Footman (The two Marsh novels are collected by Harper Collins, 2009)
Wk.10 Conclusion: Crime Fiction, Power and Resistance.

Illustrative Bibliography:

Primary Texts: Charles Dickens, Bleak House; Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White and The Moonstone; Mary Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret; Arthur Conan Doyle, The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes; ; R.Austin Freeman, "The Mystery of 31 New Inn"; L.T.Meade and Clifford Halifax, "The Adventures of a Man of Science: The Sleeping Sickness"; G.K.Chesterton, The Penguin Complete Father Brown; Agatha Christie, The Murder at the Vicarage and The Mysterious affair at Styles; Murder in Mesopotemia and Death on the Nile; Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night; Ngaio Marsh, A Surfeit of Lampreys and Death and the Dancing Footman.

Secondary Texts: Auden, W.H. The Guilty Vicarage (1963); Bell, Ian and Daldry, Graham (eds)., Watching the Detectives(1990); Barnard, Robert., A Talent to Deceive (1980); Bird, Delys (ed.), Killing Women (1993); Botting, Fred, Gothic(2001); Browne, Ray and Kreiser, Lawrence The Detective as Historian (2000); Cawelti, John G., Adventure, Mystery, and Romance (1976); Clarke, Clare, Late Victorian Crime Fiction in the Shadows of Sherlock (2014); Dirda, Michael, On Conan Doyle (2012); Earwaker, Julian and Becker, Kathleen, Scene of the Crime (2002); Fiske, John, Understanding Popular Culture (1992); Foucault, Michele, Discipline and Punish (1991) and Power/Knowledge (1980); Frank, Lawrence,Victorian Detective Fiction and the Nature of Evidence (2003);Joyce, Simon, Capital Offences (2003); Priestman, Martin (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction (2003), Detective Fiction and Literature (1990), Crime Fiction (1998); Klaus, Gustav and Knight, Stephen (eds), The Art of Murder (1998); Knight, Stephen, Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction(1988), Crime Fiction 1800-2000 (2004); Light, Alison, Forever England (1991); Malmgren, Carl, Anatomy of a Murder (2001); Mandel, Ernst, Delightful Murder (1984); Mangham, Andrew, Violent Women and Sensation Fiction (2007); Most, Glenn and Stowe, William (eds), The Poetics of Murder (1983); Munt, Sally, Murder by the Book; Mukherjee, Pablo, Crime and Empire (2003); Orwell, George, The Decline of English Murder and Other Essays (1944); Pittard, Christopher, Purity and Contamination in Late-Victorian Detective Fiction (2011); Plain, Gill, Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction (2001); Porter, Dennis, The Pursuit of Crime (1981); Reddy, Maureen, Sisters in Crime (1988); Roth, Marty, Foul and Fair Play (1995); Walker, Ronald and Frazer, June (eds), The Cunning Craft (1990), Summerscale, Kate, The Suspicion of Mr Whicher (2008); Caroline Reitz, Detecting the Nation (2004); Ronald Thomas, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science (2004); Trodd, Anthea, Domestic Crime in the Victorian Novel (1998)

EN 334 Essay 1 2019-20


Week 1:

Reading Crime Fiction in Imperial Twilight Powerpoint.

Have a look back through the Key concepts and problems and consider them in light of our reading so far. We will discuss in class.

Week 2: Chesterton
Father Brown discussion points

Week 3 and Week 4: Christie
Discussion points
Reading for class on Marple
Reading for class on Poirot

Week 5 and Week 7: Sayers
Discussion points
Reading for Strong Poison
Reading for Gaudy Night

Week 8 and Week 9: Marsh
Discussion Points
Reading for week 8

Week 10: Critical Review

Week 11 (post-Easter):
Essay Session


 Week 1:

Weeks 2 and 3:
Discussion points & article

Week 4:

Discussion points

Week 5:

Discussion points

Week 7:

Discussion Points

Week 8:

Discussion Points

Week 9:

Sherlock sources
Sherlock Outdone

Week 10
Discussion Points
Freeman (print, read, bring)
Meade & Halifax (print, read, bring)
[alternatively, bring on laptop]

EN334 Essay 1 2018-19

Crime Fiction Essay 2, 2018-19