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EN2E7/EN3E7 Crime Fiction, Nation and Empire: Britain 1850-1947

This module is now updated for 2021-22.

Convenor and tutor: Prof. Pablo Mukherjee

Tutor: Dr Jen Baker (
Staff profile inc. office hours info


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 2021/2022.

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 (40% each); 1 X 1000-word citation/bibliography exercise (20%),

Final Year: 2 X 4000-word essays (40% each); 1X1000-word citation/bibliography exercise (20%);

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 summative essay: Term 1, Friday, Week 11 + Citation/Bibliography Exercise

Second summative essay: Term 3, Friday, Week 2

Information on submission here
Information on referencing


Term 1
Before the first seminar please take a look at the attached readings.
Our seminar discussions will draw from these extracts as well as the material on the handouts provided by your seminar tutor.

Wk.1. Introduction: Approaches to British crime, fiction, nationalism and empire 1850-1914

Wk.2. Charles Dickens, Bleak House I [chapters 1 through 29] Bleak House First edition; Dickens in Newgate

Wk.3. Charles Dickens, Bleak House II [chapter 30 to the end] The London Rookeries; Penny Dreadful Detectives

Wk.4. Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White Sensation Novels; The Sensation Novel; The Perils of Sensation
Wk.5. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone The Moonstone Review; The Claims of an Indian Prince; The Koh-i-Noor diamond
Wk.6. Reading Week
Wk.7. Mary Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret Lady Audley Review; Lady Audley on Stage; Mary Braddon; Sala on sensations
Wk.8. Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four 'Yours, A.C.D.'; The Real Sherlock Holmes

Wk.9. Arthur Conan Doyle, Selected Short Stories from, The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes, or:
- '
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);

Term 2:
Wk.1. Introduction: Reading crime during imperial twilight, Britain 1910-1947 Detectives in the New century; Justice and the Great War ; Imperial future ; Empire after the Great War

Wk.2. G.K.Chesterton, selected stories from The Innocence of Father Brown (in The Penguin Complete Father Brown or this e-version) as well as the articles Modern Medieval; Prophet of Joy

Wk.3. Agatha Christie, The Murder at the Vicarage (Harper Collins, 2016 or this e-version) and The Guilty Vicarage and 'Pidgin-English and Stilted French'

Wk.4. Agatha Christie, Death on the Nile (Harper Collins, 2014 or this e-version) and Christie in her words

Wk.5. Dorothy Sayers, Strong Poison (Hodder Paperbacks, 1968 or this e-version) and 'Plausible Opening' and Wimsey and Harriet

Wk.6. Reading Week

Wk.7. Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night (Hodder Paperbacks, 2016 or this e-version) and 'Queerness at Shrewsbury'

Wk.8. Ngaio Marsh, Surfeit of Lampreys (e-version with American title here)
Also read: Ngaio Marsh and 'Cultural Ambivalence'.

Wk.9. Ngaio Marsh, Death and the Dancing Footman and 'Postcolonialism and Crime Fiction'
(The two Marsh novels are collected by Harper Collins, 2009) or you can get Footman online here

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); British Detective Fiction 1891-1901: The Successors to Sherlock Holmes (2020)
Dirda, Michael, On Conan Doyle (2012);
Earwaker, Julian and Becker, Kathleen, Scene of the Crime (2002);
Fiske, John, Understanding Popular Culture (1992);
Foucault, Michel, 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 (1994);
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);
Reitz, Caroline, Detecting the Nation (2004);
Roth, Marty, Foul and Fair Play (1995);
Summerscale, Kate, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (2008);
Thomas, Ronald, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science (2004);
Trodd, Anthea, Domestic Crime in the Victorian Novel (1998);
Walker, Ronald and Frazer, June (eds), The Cunning Craft (1990),