Crime and Fiction Session One: Introduction
Agenda The programme The conventions of crime fiction are common knowledge Crime fiction is the narrative of narratives
The Programme • Primary literature: • Graham Greene, Brighton Rock • Tom Stoppard, The Real Inspector Hound • Tibor Fischer, The Thought Gang • Martin Amis, Night Train • Realism, Modernism, Postmodernism, Now • Fiction with narrative traits
Graham Greene, Brighton Rock • Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical an dnervous, anybody could tell he didn’t belong – belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd. They came by train from Victoria every five minutes, rocked down Queens Road standing on the tops of the little local trams, stepped off in bewildered multitudes into the fresh and glittering air:… (3)
Tibor Fischer, The Thought Gang • The only advice I can offer, should you wake up vertiginously in a strange flat, with a thoroughly installed hangover, without any of your clothing, without any recollection of how you got there, with the police sledgehammering down the door to the accompaniment of excited dogs, while you are surrounded by bales of lavishly-produced magazines featuring children in adult acts, the only advice I can offer is to try be good-humoured and polite. (1)
Martin Amis, Night Train • I am a police. That may sound like an unusual statement – or an unusual construction. But it’s a parlance we have. Among ourselves, we would never say I am a policeman or I am a policewoman or I am a police officer. We would just say I am a police. I am a police. I am a police and my name is Detective Mike Hoolihan. And I am a woman, also. (1)
Common knowledge Crime fiction is everywhere: books, television, movies, computer games Examples of crime fiction from each of the above media? Transmedial similarities and differences. What do the stories, movies, tv-series, computer games have in common? What varies?
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. Feb 15, 2005 — A lawsuit claims the video game "Grand Theft Auto" led a teenager to shoot two police officers and a dispatcher to death in 2003, mirroring violent acts depicted in the popular game.
Literary Fiction and Crime • Susan Glaspell, Trifles • LeRoi Jones, Dutchman • Harold Pinter, The Dumb Waiter • Salman Rushdie, ”The Prophet’s Hair”
Literary Fiction and Crime • Gothic fiction • Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations. • Edgar Allen Poe, • Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose • Brett Easton Ellis, American Psycho • Ian McEwan, Atonement, Saturday • Martin Amis, London Fields • Paul Auster, The New York Trillogy • Peter Carey, The True History of the Kelly Gang.
Crime-free Fiction? • Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice • Thomas Hardy, ”On the Western Circuit” • Jack London, ”The Law of Life” • Stephen Crane, ”The Open Boat” • Virginia Woolf, ”The Mark on the Wall”
Crime fiction as narrative paradigm • There’s another sense in which crime fiction is everywhere. • The literature of detection is “paradigmatic of literary narrative itself” (Marcus 2003: 245), it forms “the narrative of naratives” (Brooks 1984: 25)
Inquest: the present work of detection that we read about in order to learn about the past story of the Crime Sjuzet, plot, discourse: Fabula, story Crime fiction as narrative paradigm
Story (fabula, the time of the told): A chronological sequence of events Plot (Sjuzhet, discourse, the time of the telling): The discursive representation of story towards the achievement of a particular effect and meaning Concepts and definitions
Plot • An aspect of narrative • A plan made in secret by a group of people, esp. to achieve an unlawful end (OED)
A Conventional whodunnit • The plot opens with the discovery of a dead body (the beginning). • The middle outlines the discovery of the murderer. This always involves the reconstruction of the story (the chronological sequence of events) that precedes and leads up to the murder. • The end involves bringing the murderer to justice
A Conventional whodunnit • Thus, we have a plotline: The beginning: the middle: The end: The discoery of the discovery the killer is brought to a dead body of the killer by story justice reconstruction
A Conventional whodunnit • Similarly, we have a story: 1) The narrative present 2) The narrative past The killer is brought to justice The discovery of the dead body The sequence of events that lead up to the murder
A Conventional whodunnit:plot and story lines The story The narrative Present The Narrative past The plot The end: The killer is brought to justice The beginning: The discovery of A dead body The middle: The discovery of the killer by reconstructing the sequence of events that precede the murder
A Conventional whodunnit: • ”Geting the story right,” i.e. the successful reconstruction of the sequence of events that lead up to, explain, and identify the narrative present, the crime, and the perpetrator. • This is the paradigm Marcus speaks of. The plot of any narrative concerns the reconstruction of the story.
Jack London, ”The Law of Life” Story time Koskoosh’s last hour … and death Plot time Flashback 1 Flashbacks 1+ Flashbacks involving wolves Attacking moose
Story precedes plot: The chronological sequence of events are necessarily prior to their narration We need a story before we can have a plot! Plot precedes story: Story is only accessible through its discursive representation We need a plot before we can have a story! The Paradox of Narrative Fiction!
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist • This is a good example of a plot that concerns getting the story right and reconstructing correctly the chronological sequence of events
Story time Ch. 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Plot time The Burglary: Oliver shot Oliver Fagin and Monks Talks mysteriously About framing Oliver Mr Bumble and Mrs Corney Taking tea Fagin et al. Crackit tells of Oliver Mr Bumble Courts Mrs Corney Deathbed Confession Concerning Oliver’s identity
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist • In relation to the eponymous hero, the plot involves unlocking his beginnings, i.e. the chronological sequence of events that precede his birth. Why? • However, in relation to Fagin and Sikes the plot remains spectacularly unconcerned with their beginnings. Instead, the focus is on their ends. Why?
Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist • Story and Plot: • Progression • Regression • Digression
Literary Narrative and the Paradigm og Detection • Story and plot (progression, regression, digression) • Attitudes to the paradigm: • Acceptance • Rejection • Ambiguity, ambivalence.