Image credit: Victor GAD Marija Dalbello Detective / Mystery Fiction Rutgers School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies email@example.com http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/~dalbello
Detective / Mystery Fiction _______________________________________ “Detective fiction is an art of symmetry, it seeks the appearance of logical necessity, like classical tragedy, and like tragedy, it seeks the unity of place -- the locked room, the ship, or train in motion.” (Barzun, in Dove, 4)
Detective / Mystery Fiction _______________________________________ “Horizons of expectation” (W. Iser) Interpretation is pre-structured; Situated nature of interpretation in the reader’s world of past experiences Historical development of a genre (and the difference bw the novice and the veteran reader) affect the horizon of expectation (text + reader involved) Reading is the act of communication bw the text and the reader (reading different from the usual dyadic conversation because there is an absence of the regulative context to assist the understanding of the text; text is interpretable in several different ways) 1930s-1940s New Criticism (scientific approach to text, without considering the context) Reader-response builds on Iser & Jauss (reception theory); developed by Stanley Fish; influential in the last 30 years: meaning is not discovered in the text but is generated by the reading of it.
Detective / Mystery Fiction _______________________________________ Hermeneutic specialization One of the axioms of the detective story is its basic purpose (its ‘hermeneutic specialization’) which gives precedence to the reader’s need to find out about what happens next. Most stories have hermeneutic qualities but in the detective story the reader asks of any information ‘how it fits in’ and ‘how it will all come out’. Detective fiction is rich in structured blanks which indicate patterns in the text Blanks are programmed (supplied with suggestions related to later developments; Is this fact important?)
Detective / Mystery Fiction _______________________________________ Play (H-G. Gadamer) absence of stress / presence of strain Gadamerian concept of play transformed into art: both the crossword puzzle and the detective novel are free of stress, each offers the reader a task or set of related tasks, both are shaped by convention, and neither has any goal beyond itself. (p. 3) Through play, the story becomes the work of art, ‘it is transformed into structure’ Detective story refuses to go beyond the bounds of play (not about the real world)
Detective / Mystery Fiction _______________________________________ History / types formal-problem detective story (E.A. Poe, C. Doyle): problem solved by means of reason hard-boiled private eye story (D. Hammett, R. Chandler): problem solved by means of pursuit and conflict rather than reason Prototypical detective story: Poe: The Murders in the Rue Morgue (p. 23) 1. Detective-protagonist is the prime mover of the action of the narrative 2. The detection-plot supplies the major theme of the story; minor themes may exist but the detection is always basic 3. There is the problem to be solved, invariably represented as insoluble 4. There is the solution, which is always reached before the story ends 7-step basic plot of all detective fiction: problem, first solution, complication, period of gloom, dawning light, solution, explanation
Detective / Mystery Fiction _______________________________________ Convention / Invention (p.75-76) constitutive conventions define a genre and are essential to it (a story that does not have a detective is not a detective story) (p. 76-77): the detective’s story; the centrality of the main plot; the problem is not only a mystery to be solved but is doubly wrapped and deeply veiled; closure is sacralized-it must not be given away at any cost (in some cases the murder need not be solved but there must be a satisfying solution) regulative conventions characterize a genre but are not essential to it: there is almost always a murder in the detective story but it is possible to have a detective story without a murder) recurrent stereotypes (Most Likely Suspect, the Most Likely Victim, the Death Warrant)