It is not by accident that some of the most influential theorists of the century have made a contribution to the detective story genre, either by analyzing it or by writing murder mysteries themselves — Julia Kristeva and Umberto Ecco are among the most famous examples — nor that the best contemporary writers have written for the genre — e.g., the latest Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk or the American Don Delillo. This course offers an interdisciplinary examination of the detective story genre. We will start with the film classic, Casablanca, uncoveringits famous literary and cinematic mysteries. Then, as background, we will explore key poststructuralist theories of the 20th century that underline and inform the fiction we will be discussing. Finally, we will examine how the texts communicate among themselves and why and how postmodern authors incorporate other texts into their own. We will thus combine the best of the two worlds: an extensive reading list full of thrilling mysteries and an introduction to the literary theory of the 20th century, dealing with issues of intertextuality, semiotics, poststructuralism, representation, globalization, postcolonialism, and psychoanalysis.
Course materials include: fiction (Umberto Ecco, Julia Kristeva, Don Dellilo, Michael Ondatjee, Orhan Pamuk, Amitav Gosh, J.L. Borges), theory (Tzvetan Todorov, Julia Kristeva, Slavoj Žižek, Fredric Jameson), and film.
Evaluation will be based on a midterm paper, a final essay, a presentation on a self-designed topic, and participation in class.