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Crime Fiction Assessed Essay 2, 2008-9


Second Assessed Essay of 5,000 words

Due 3pm Tuesday Week 3, Term 3, 5th May 2009


  1. ‘The criminal is the creative artist; the detective only the critic.’ (‘The Blue Cross’) Either, explore how Flambeau or another criminal may be an ‘artist’; discuss how and why we may view the detective as a ‘critic’; or, examine the relationship between a criminal artist and a critical detective.

  1. ‘Meanwhile the good priest and the good atheist stood at the head and foot of the dead man motionless in the moonlight, like symbolic statues of their two philosophies of death’ (‘The Secret Garden’). Examine the competiting personalities, behaviours, belief systems and/or approaches to justice exhibited by Father Brown and Valentine. Refer to at least three short stories in your analysis.

  1. ‘The talk was that strange, slight talk which governs the British Empire, which governs it in secret, and yet would scarcely enlighten an ordinary Englishman even if he could over hear it’ (‘ The Queer Feet’). Refering to at least two texts studied this term, explore the ways in which the ‘secrets’ of imperial power and control are simultaneously hidden and revealed in twentieth century crime fiction.

  1. ‘I really believe that wizened-up old maid thinks she knows everything there is to know. And hardly been out of this village all her life. Preposterous. What can she know of life?’ (Murder at the Vicarage) Examine the way/s other characters view a detective who appears to lead a ‘quiet’ life. You may wish to consider themes such as worldliness, seculsion, insularity, geographical location, confession and/or the acquisition of knowledge.

  1. Consider the relationship between gender and genre as experienced through the writings of one of the ‘Queens of Crime’. You may wish to address the ‘feminisation’ of the genre, the role of women as detectives/criminals/suspects or the depiction of men between the wars. Analyse one or two text studied.

  1. ‘I have only two other passengers – both English. A Colonel from India, and a young English lady from Baghdad.’ ‘“You belong to the League of Nations?” “I belong to the world, Madame,” said Poirot dramatically.’ (Orient Express) Analyse the relationship between nation/nationality and imperial histories, access routes or travel settings in Christie’s writing referring to either one or two novels.

  1. Examine the ways in which crime fiction may be said to be self reflexive or self referential, particularly through explicit intertextuality, and examine to what extent this may enable or deny the existence of a subversive potential within the genre.

  1. ‘If there was one subject in the world about which Miss Climpson might claim to know something, it was spiritualism.’ (Strong Poison) ‘Tinkerton says Aunt V. is far gone in black magic.’ (Surfeit of Lampreys) Either, discuss the role of spiritualism/black magic/the occult, or, analyse the relationship between religion, sanity and crime. You may refer to one or more texts studied this term.

  1. ‘When they come to London, colonials orientate themselves by Piccadilly Circus. All their adventures start from there. It is under the bow of Eros that to many a colonial has come that first warmth of realization that says to him: “This is London.”’ (Surfeit of Lampreys) Examine the relationship between crime and ‘the city’ in twentieth century crime fiction.

  1. ‘The post-war generation and so on. Lots of people go off the rails a bit – no real harm in ‘em at all. Just can’t see eye to eye with the older people.’ (Strong Poison) Where do we find a sense of historical or generational change in twentieth century crime fiction and how is such change conveyed to the reader?

  1. ‘Another instance…of the aristocracy mixing with the commonalty. They’ve tried trade and they’ve tried big business. Why not a spot of homicide?’ (Surfeit of Lampreys) Explore the relationship between crime, class and detection as exhibited by one writer studied this term.

  1. Consider the way that theatricality, performance, charades, masquerades or impersonations are mobilised in early twentieth century crime fiction. In what ways do such moments of identity (re)invention and/or obfuscation relate to the socio-cultural context in which they were written.

  1. ‘By half-past two the rooms at Highfold had begun to assume a stealthy dimness. The house itself, as well as the human beings inside it, seemed to listen and to wait.’ (Death and the Dancing Footman) Write about the domestic settings or living spaces of crime and criminal activity. You may focus on one or two authors studied.

  1. Taking one particular crime fiction text, closely examine the relationship between this work and an aspect or aspects of its social, historical or political context.

  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.