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Crime Fiction Assessed Essay 1, 2008-9


First Assessed Essay of 5,000 words

Due 19th January 2009, Monday Week 3, Term 2


  1. ‘On such an afternoon, some score of members of the High Court of Chancery bar ought to be – as they here are – mistily engaged in one of ten thousand stages of an endless cause…’ (Bleak House, Chapter 1). Analyse the way the law and its institutions and agents are depicted in one or two crime fiction works studied.

  1. ‘My Lady Dedlock had been down at what she calls, in familiar conversation, her "place" in Lincolnshire’. ‘But Charley helped me through unconciously, by telling us that Lady Dedlock had only stayed at the House two nights, on her way from London to visit at some other great houses in the next country.’ (Bleak House, Chapters 2 & 37) Explore the way that ‘place’, the ‘great house’ or journeys between locales are mobilised in 19th century crime fiction.

  1. Consider the fictional and historical points of intersection between legality, criminality and either class, servitude, sanity, social reform or the development of the police through a novel or author studied this term.

  1. How are issues of familial wealth, inheritance and entitlement tied to the law, criminal activity and larger political concerns? Your answer should closely examine at least one novel studied so far.

  1. ‘The last annoyance that has assailed me is the annoyance of being called upon to write this Narrative’. (The Woman in White) ‘I am asked to tell the story of the Diamond, and instead of that, I have been telling the story of my own self.’ (The Moonstone) Discuss the relationship between witnessing, documentary evidence and narrative voice within 19th century crime fiction.

  1. ‘I address these lines – written in India – to my relatives in England’. (‘Prologue’, The Moonstone). In what ways are Empire and imperial interests influencing, structuring and/or exposing the crime narratives of 19th century England?

  1. ‘Most twentieth-century commentators have claimed Wilkie Colins’s The Woman in White […] as the first true sensation novel. [And] One of the most successful of all sensation novels was May Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret (1861-2).’ (Lyn Pykett ‘The Newgate novel and sensation ficition, 1830-1868’ in The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction ed. Priestman) Consider the idea of ‘ sensation’ and/or the category of the ‘sensation novel’ by examining one or two novels studied this term.

  1. ‘No man under heaven deserves these sacrifices from us women’. (The Woman in White) ‘ Women are never to be entirely trusted – not the best of them.’ (The Sign of Four) Consider the role of women in relation to 19th crime fiction and the gender boundaries with which they negotiate.

  1. ‘Her grave eyes were fixed upon his face, and he knew that she was trying to read the innermost secrets of his mind.’ (Lady Audely’s Secret) Write about the value(s) of secrets and secrecy and their narrative function(s) in crime fiction.

  1. ‘Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantlepiece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case.’ (The Sign of Four) Discuss the significance of either cocaine or opium, and its intersection with medicine, in relation to 19th century crime and crime fiction.

  1. Either, compare the way that detection and deduction are to be read and interrogated in two crime novels; or, investigate the manner in which two detective partnerships function or fail to function; or, explore the chief characteristics and mannerisms of a detective and examine why such qualities/quirks are significant to the genre.

  1. Investigate the way(s) in which the values of an Englishness, specifically an imperially orientated sense of Englishness, concerned with gentlemanly behaviour and the cricketing code are represented and manipulated in Raffles.

  1. How are issues of masculinity, self determination and national political crises interwoven in crime fiction of the 19th century?

  1. You may construct you own question in conjunction with the module tutor and approval for this must be sought before the vacation period begins.