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Module QXE-3012:
Detective Fiction

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof Steven Price

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To trace the development of detective fiction from the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe through to recent postmodern variants on the genre.
  2. To assess the relationships between the popularity of the genre and the ideological, cultural and historical contexts within which it is disseminated.
  3. To read detective fiction in the light of a range of literary approaches including narrative theory, semiotics, and ideological analysis.
  4. To examine the relationships between literary form and ideological meaning.

Course content

This module covers nineteenth-century works by Poe, Collins and Conan Doyle; English ‘classical’ stories of the early twentieth century (Chesterton, Christie); American ‘hard boiled’ versions (Hammett, Chandler), and modernist and postmodernist variants (Borges, Auster). The module will situate the text in some historical and cultural contexts, and focus on the relationship between form and ideology in the genre.

Assessment Criteria


Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative • In creative work: superficial • Not succeeding in mastering the requirements of the medium


Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps


Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production

Learning outcomes

  1. Knowledge and understanding of a corpus of works in different media (particularly novels, short stories, films)

  2. The ability to recognise the generic conventions of detective fiction and make connections between these and social and political factors.

  3. The ability to analyse the particular style and structure of works of detective fiction, and their relations with conventions of other genres

  4. Awareness of the particular critical vocabulary, concepts and theoretical frameworks that relate to the study of detective fiction

  5. The ability to write critically in a structured way about works of detective fiction, showing awareness of cultural, socio-historical and political contexts

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
essay 1 50
essay 2 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 178

One two-hour seminar per week for 11 weeks


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others


Courses including this module

Optional in courses: