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Unit information: European Crime Fiction in 2014/15

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Unit name European Crime Fiction
Unit code MODL30014
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Hurcombe
Open unit status Open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit introduces students to the genre of crime fiction from the early twentieth century to the present, as represented in a range of literary cultures, including Britain, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia and Spain. The unit examines how the initially staid conventions of the genre become the subject of literary experimentation. It also explores the social and political conditions in which crime fiction is produced and how the genre responds to, reflects, and incorporates these through the motifs of the crime, the criminal and the detective. It also encourages students to seek out parallels and differences in the exploitation of the genre in different national contexts at key moments in recent history.

Intended learning outcomes

Students of this unit will have: a) Demonstrated their understanding of the conventions of crime fiction, including the roles played by narrative strategy, the figures of detective and criminal and the motifs of crime and resolution; b) Analysed how standard conventions are subverted and exploited in the context of twentieth-century literary experimentation; c) Demonstrated their understanding of how the genre and its subversion may be used for extra-literary purposes and are informed by national and international socio-political developments; d) Examined parallels and differences in the exploitation of the genre at different times and/or in different national contexts; e) Reflected upon the interaction of literature, genre and the socio-political more broadly while also considering the shifting status of popular fiction; f) Made effective use of appropriate literary and non-literary (e.g. sociological, gender) critical frameworks for interpreting texts;

Teaching details

Weekly lecture (one hour) plus weekly seminar (one hour)

Assessment Details

2 x summative essay (2 x 3,000 words, 50% each), the first focused on a single text, particularly testing ILOs a-c, the second focused on comparative analysis, testing ILOs a-f, particularly d.

Reading and References

Set texts will vary from year to year depending on staff availability. The following are purely indicative: Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (1926) Karel ńĆapek, Hordubal (1933) Didier Daeninckx, Murder in Memoriam (1984) Laura Grimaldi, Suspicion (1989) Bernhard Schlink, Self’s Murder (2001) Henning Mankell, Firewall (2012)