Genre: Mysteries and Who Dunnits

271(2): MWF 11:30 -12:20 


Stories about mysteries or solving crime are old, going back possibly to One Thousand and One Nights, or as this compilation is often called in the West, Arabian Nights. This type of story has persisted through the centuries perhaps because some minds in all ages need to devise puzzles to solve; perhaps stories that are nowadays called “detective” stories reflect the need to satisfy a curiosity about our surroundings, or about why an individual would behave in the way that s/he did. The “detective” story foregrounds and carefully measures its release of information about who, what, when, where, and most importantly, why. Complex answers of “why” as well as multi-faceted, profound, and often ambiguous depictions of the who, when, why and where are the elements of “detective” storytelling that keep generations of readers coming back for more.

The reading list consists of a story from One Thousand and One Nights, a detective story written by a Dutch diplomat in the first-half of the 20th century and based on a Tang dynasty (A.D. 700-900) detective series, as well as works by Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sue Grafton, and a SciFi short story by Ted Chiang that was the basis for the 2016 film, The Arrival (see Required Texts below).

Procedure:       Classes consist of lectures by the instructor, class and small group discussions. A brief quiz will be given on each item on the reading list; assigned films will be viewed outside of class time, as homework.

Required Assignments:    Reading the required texts, including viewing the film; brief quizzes; one argumentative paper, a minimum of five pages, double-spaced; one research paper on “detectives” in popular culture, a minimum of five pages, double-spaced; one class presentation (5 to 10 mins.), accompanied by one paper, two pages, double-spaced.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  • To acquire an understanding– appropriate to a 200-level introduction to literature course–of the elements of fiction;
  • To acquire familiarity with the elements of detective fiction;
  • To acquire competency—appropriate to a 200-level literature course–in analyzing fiction;
  • To increase competency in writing analytical papers on literature and in participating in class discussions

Required texts:

Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life” (short story)

Agatha Christie, 4.50 from Paddington (novel)

Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” (short story)

Sue Grafton, G is for Gumshoe (novel)

Robert Van Gulik, The Willow Pattern: A Judge Dee Detective Story (novella)

The Maltese Falcon (film)

Rodney Morales, For a Song (novel)

Three Apples (short story; from One Thousand and One Nights)

Dorothy Sayers, Nine Tailors (novel)