Special Topic: Literary Detective Fiction
CRN 21698, 22021, 22022
Arts and Sciences (COAS) 203
This Special Topics course explores one of the most enduring and popular subgenres of fiction, literary detective fiction, from it origins in the 1840s through the early 21st century. The course aims to examine the conventions of detective fiction as they have evolved over the past 170 years and to consider such questions as why this subgenre has enjoyed such a broad appeal and how it responds to and illuminates key issues of culture and cultural history, psychology, class, gender, and technology. We will also explore questions about detective fiction's essential value: many denigrate such fiction as narrowly formulaic "popular entertainment," and thus we will continually confront and interrogate the boundaries between "popular" and "literary." Ultimately, we will see that detective fiction provides a distinctive and richly rewarding perspective on fundamental aspects of modern society and humanity.
We will read both short stories and novels by canonical giants such as Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, commercially powerhouse writers such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and important contemporary authors Umberto Eco and Michael Chabon. Naturally, the course also aims to expand and improve your abilities in reading and thinking critically and to develop your writing, research, and communication skills. While this course is not geared specifically for the education track of the English major, we will periodically discuss challenges and strategies in teaching detective fiction as we proceed.
At least a "C" in English 3010.
Tales of Terror and Detection, by Edgar Allan Poe, Dover Thrift Edition.
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, Penguin Classics Edition.
Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Dover Thrift Edition.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle, Dover Thrift Edition.
Favorite Father Brown Stories, by G. K. Chesterton, Dover Thrift Edition.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie, William Morrow/Harper Collins Edition.
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Edition.
The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard Edition.
The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco, Mariner Books Edition.
The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon, Harper Perennial Edition.
Attendance: Each class is important, so it is crucial that you be in class on time every day. I record attendance, and absences do affect your grade. Students with more than four absences fail the class, regardless of the reasons for any of the absences—I make no distinction between "excused" and "unexcused" absences. I understand that "stuff happens," and not every student will be able to attend every class meeting. I will try to work with you on any major assignments you happen to miss (assignments other than reading quizzes), especially when you notify me of the absence missing class: feel free to call me or email anytime you must miss class.
Late work: Late work is penalized one letter grade for each class day the assignment is late. Work turned in more than three class days late will receive no higher grade than F, and I accept no work more than two weeks late.
Bare minimum course requirements: Regardless of your overall grade average, to be eligible to pass the course you must turn in both formal papers, submit at least six critical responses, complete corrections assignments for both formal papers and your first two critical responses, and take both the midterm and final exams.
Plagiarism: Except for assignments expressly calling for collaborative effort, all written work must be your own. Any unacknowledged borrowing from the writings of others will be considered plagiarism, a serious breach of academic integrity. I will submit cases of plagiarism or other academic dishonesty for review by the Student Conduct Officer. The penalty for plagiarism in this class is an "F" for the entire course, not just the assignment in question.
Note that this more specific definition of plagiarism is operative in this class:
For more on plagiarism, follow the "On Plagiarism" link on my website.
Withdrawal Policy: Students may withdraw from the course and earn a grade of “W” up to and including the midterm date (Wednesday, March 4, 2015 for full-session classes). After midterm, students who withdraw will receive a grade of “WF.” A WF is calculated in the GPA as an “F.” New MGA policy limits the total number of withdrawal hours that students may accrue to 15 hours.
End of Course Evaluations: Student evaluations of faculty are administered online at the end of each term/session for all courses with five or more students. Students will receive an email containing a unique link to a survey for each course in which they are enrolled. All responses are anonymous and completion of evaluations is voluntary.
"Technical Policy" (re: plagiarism detection): a plagiarism prevention service may be used in evaluation of written work submitted for this course. If directed by the instructor, students are expected to submit or have their assignments submitted through the service in order to meet requirements for this course. The papers may be retained by the service for the sole purpose of checking for plagiarized content in future student submissions.
Instruments of Evaluation
Class discussion: Most class periods will involve open discussion of the reading assignments with little lecture, so your participation in discussion is essential. I will call on reticent or "quiet" students. To participate, obviously you must be present in class; to score higher than B- in participation you will need perfect attendance and to contribute in discussion spontaneously and appropriately several times each class meeting, as well as being fully engaged in all other course activities.
Critical response writings: typed informal writings of at least 250 words responding to the readings before we discuss them in class. Note that each critical response assignment is valid for one class period only, and that critical responses are accepted only by the beginning of the period for which they are assigned. I will post critical response questions on the web and announce them in class the meeting before each reading assignment is due. Grades are recorded for only eight critical responses, meaning that you do not have to address each assigned topic, only a total of eight over the course of the semester.
Exams: Both the midterm and final exams will consist of two parts: 1) "short answers," or brief paragraph-length commentary on the significance of specific passages from our readings, and 2) essays making connections in theme or technique between different novels. There will be one essay on the midterm and two on the final. You will have some choice in the short answer and essay portions of each exam: you might on the midterm, for instance, select 5 of 7 short answer questions and 1 of 3 essay options.
Papers: In two essays of 6-8 typed pages (1800 word minimum), you will explore in some depth a subject you choose from a list of paper topics I will post on the web at the appropriate time. Papers must be formatted and have sources documented according to MLA guidelines. For at least one of the papers, you will incorporate substantial research into the essayi.e. you will be required to cite four or more secondary sources of quality scholarship or criticism in addition to the primary work(s) you discuss. You will submit a brief topic sentence outline well before each paper is due as indicated on our schedule of readings and assignments.
Corrections: For the first two critical responses you submit and the formal papers, after your work is graded you will hand in corrected drafts with all changes highlighted. Since corrections require a freshly printed draft after the paper has been graded, you should save all your work on disk to avoid having to retype entire drafts. For specifics, see corrections instructions.
Conferences: Conferences are not mandatory, but I strongly recommend them if you struggle with any aspect of the readings and at any stage of the paper-writing processexploring topics, drafting, revising, or editing. My typical aim in paper conferences is to head off potential problems in your essays and to offer helpful, critical response to your work before you submit it for grading."Rewrites": You may rewrite and resubmit either or both graded formal papers for re-grading. Rewrite grades replace original grades completely. Note that rewriting involves far more substantial revision than correcting grammatical errors: rewrites should also address larger problems in focus, structure, content, and style. The starting point for revision is my typed comments on your graded papers; rewrites should also address comments and questions written in the margins of the original graded papers.
Most handouts and all out-of-class assignments will be posted on my website rather than being distributed as "hard copy" in classyou are responsible for printing and reading these web-page "handouts" before we discuss them in class. Most handouts are indicated as linked pages on the online schedule of readings and assignments. I may occasionally contact you through email also, and I encourage you to email me with questions on any course matters large or small.
Final grade breakdown
Keeping up with grades: You should check your grades periodically in Brightspace (D2L). Let me know if you have concerns about your class average or grades on specific assignments before you consider withdrawing from the course.
A note on note-taking: Although this course involves comparatively little lecture, it is essential that you take notes every class period. "A" students typically take extensive notes. Even in class periods where your classmates do more "discussing" than the professor, you should make note of any significant points made by anyone in the discussion. You would also do well to underline, highlight, or otherwise note all passages from the readings that we take special notice of in class, for I usually select short-answer quotations for exams from those we've read or examined in discussion.
The Bottom Line: I hope every member of this class gets an A, and I will do all I can to make this happen. Don't get me wrongthe standards for "A" work are high, and I make no exceptions in course policies on absences, missed assignments, plagiarism, or late work. The key to succeeding in this class is taking responsibility for your own success, meaning that you attend to all assignments with your most careful and earnest diligence, that you respond positively to any setbacks and heed my feedback on all assignments, and that you seek my help as much and as often as you need it. I guarantee you have one of the most accessible professors at Middle Georgia State: ask for help outside of class, and I'll do my level best to deliver.