Earlier this year I agreed to write an article on Crime and Detective Literature for Young Readers to appear in the Blackwell Companion to Crime Fiction, edited by Charles Rzepka and Lee Horsley. Last week Charles sent around a reminder about the project and I thought I would bump it to the top here too. I’m working on a piece about A Study in Scarlet at the moment as well as researching my own crime and detective fiction books, so the summary of this project’s aims was a good reminder of how important crime and detective fiction are:
At present, crime fiction comprises one of the largest single categories of popular book sales worldwide and, it is safe to say, constitutes one of the most important popular genres for academic literary study and teaching, especially at the undergraduate level. It has long been, and with the rapid globalization of Western culture and institutions it remains, intimately representative of a post-Enlightenment age of bureaucratized law enforcement, professional specialization, massive urbanization and conurbation, alienation and discontent among groups marginalized by capital accumulation and exploitation, and the universal valorization of individual autonomy. The contiguous disciplinary affiliations of crime fiction study are numerous and varied: history of science and the science of history, philosophy of science, medicine, law, print technology and distribution, mass media and cultural studies, gender theory, narratology, constructions of race, colonial and post-colonial studies, political economy, class-relations, psychoanalysis, and religion, as well as more obvious connections to forensics and criminology. The very ubiquity of the genre of crime in popular culture (from “gangsta rap” to the highly publicized recent conviction of Enron’s white-collar con-men) tends to blind us to its central role as an engine of Western cultural self-construction and authorization.
–Charles Rzepka and Lee Horsley.
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