Undergraduate Course Descriptions

OML 250.910 Whodunit
TR 4:30-7:40 Sheehan

One of the most popular literary genres is crime fiction, better known as “The Whodunit.” But this genre’s history is little-studied and underappreciated. What accounts for readers’ enduring fascination with tales of murder, deception, justice, and retribution? What distinguishes recent crime fiction from the mysteries of fifty, a hundred or even, a thousand years ago? The course will begin by investigating the origins of the whodunit and will end by examining how contemporary crime stories continue to interrogate the major social and intellectual issues of our time. In between the course will focus on the techniques used in both detection work and narrative invention, from forensics, interrogation, and psychological profiling, to the more explicitly literary forms of suspense, narration, and signification. We will consider both fictional stories of crime, trial and punishment as well as modern theories of legal analysis. Authors may include Sophocles, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Melville, Franz Kafka, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, and James Ellroy; films may include /The Big Sleep/, /12 Angry Men/, and /Memento/.

Last modified March 22, 2006
Maintained by Peter Gaffney
Program in Comparative Literature
School of Arts & Sciences
University of Pennsylvania