For Tuesday, May 9

I’ve written up our “True Crime Podcast” project here. (There’s a link in the “Class Info” column to the right as well.). To speed you along, for Tuesday, bring your rubric/analysis to class and let’s focus our discussion on connections between your podcast and the texts we’ve read this semester.

For Tuesday (5/2)

For Tuesday, let’s talk about all of Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead.  (I so enjoyed re-reading Gran’s novel that I picked up the next two installments of the Claire DeWitt series – – Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway and The Infinite Blacktop.)

For this week, now that you’ve selected your podcast and listened to several episodes, let’s launch the next phase of our investigation.  The question that I’m really interested in here is: what makes the true crime broadcast so popular?  To answer this – – let’s try a bit of analysis.

After you’ve listened to at least three of your podcast episodes, let’s marshall our expertise in detective fiction to make sense of the true crime thing.  For each episode of your podcast, write as much as you can for each of the following categories that we’ve been tracking across our texts:

Detective-protagonist: is there a detective? how does this detective operate? does the detective resemble any other detectives we’ve encountered in class?

Crime: what is the crime? what social norms or conventions or boundaries does this crime seem to involve? have we seen this kind of crime before in our texts?

Setting: how important is setting to the podcast episode? does setting play a particular role or provide a particular context?  have we seen this kind of setting before in our texts?

Plot: how is the plot of the podcast episode organized?  is it more “hermeneutic” – – little enigma breadcrumbs sprinkled along the path? or, more “proaeretic” – – oriented toward a series of actions rather than puzzles?  does the plot of the podcast episode resemble any of the texts we’ve looked at this semester?

I’ve created a template for this analysis in google docs.  Copy and paste the template into your google writing journal.

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

For Thursday (4/20) and Tuesday (4/25)

For Tuesday (4/25), read at least half of Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead (2011).

Instead of an asynchronous writing event for Thursday (4/20), let’s start looking for a true crime/mystery podcast.  If you already have a podcast source (Apple Podcasts, Spotify, etc.), browse through their “True Crime” lists.  If you don’t already listen to podcasts, here are some lists to peruse: List 1; List 2; List 3.  The goal here is to just find a podcast that you find interesting.  After you’ve found your podcast, start listening. (If the podcast is a serial – – you’ll want to try to listen to a full season.  If the podcast is episodic – – try to listen to seven or eight episodes.). Bring the title of your selected podcast to class on Tuesday (4/25).

For Thursday (4/13) and Tuesday (4/18)

Finish reading Annihilation for Tuesday so that we can talk about the whole novel.

For Thursday, as you make your way through VanderMeer’s “strange” fiction, think about reasons why the novel might be considered a “detective” narrative. And, reasons why we might not consider it a “detective” narrative.  Come up with three reasons for (the novel to be considered a “detective” narrative) and three reasons against (the novel being considered a “detective” narrative).  Type up these reasons and bring them to class.  (No need to explain the reasoning behind your reasons.  Just state them as clearly and concisely as you can.)


For Thursday (4/6) and Tuesday (4/11)

Could it be that we’re actually a little ahead of ourselves on the syllabus?  Looks that way.  This means we can slow down a bit and take our time with the next couple of novels – – which both, by my reading, revise the classical detective narrative, but in different ways.

For Tuesday, read at least up to the end of Section 02: “Integration” (Page 89 in my version) of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation.   Some questions to consider as you read:

  • who is the detective in this narrative?  how does their work resemble and/or differ from the more “classical” detectives we’ve encountered so far?
  • last Tuesday, I elaborated a bit on the “hermeneutic code” as a way to understand detective/mystery narratives.  This term – – orignated by French literary theorist, Roland Barthes, in his seminal book, S/Z (a fun read, by the way) – – describes how narratives pose questions and engimas to the reader and how these elements actively pull/push a reader through a text in search of resolution.  (For instance, the “dead Roman in the bathroom” – – and the questions it poses: who is this guy? why is he in my bathroom? why me? – – is the initial engima that drives both Hector and the reader forward through the opening chapters of No Happy Ending.)  As you read Annihilation, keep track of the engimas posed by VanderMeer’s story to you, the reader, and/or to your surrogate – – the novel’s protagonist/detective.  As the text makes you ask questions, jot these questions down.  Typically, enigmas can be large or small – – but they must always initially present themselves as open-ended, thus pushing you and/or the protagonist to keep going in search of answers.  Bring this list of enigmas to class on Tuesday – – you can either write them down in pen/pencil or type/print them.

Sidenote: maybe because I’m an academic, I think one way of categorizing detective/mystery narratives is through their mix or ratio of hermeneutic and “proairetic” codes.  (Barthes uses “proairetic” code to describe the events that make up a story – – the plot summary, so to speak.  This “code” is more action-oriented.  For instance, a group of students arrives on an island; a former student on the mainland receives an odd note; a student on the island dies; the mainland student reunites with a former classmate;  the mainland student meets a helper – – Shimada; etc. etc.).  Mystery/detective narratives – – like most narratives – – contain and depend on both codes.  And, one way of categorizing mystery/detective narratives might be through the balance they strike between these codes: some mystery/detective narratives are more “action-oriented” (i.e. proairetic) – – e.g. hard-boiled or noir novels; others seem to be more “engima-oriented” (i.e. hermeneutic) – – e.g. Sherlock Holmes, the “chalet-in-the-snowstorm” or drawing room or domestic mystery, etc.. This is a just a hypothesis – – but it might be helpful in recognizing or adopting different reading styles and expectations and the variety of pleasures offered by the detective genre.

For Tuesday (4/4)

For Tuesday, let’s talk about Paco Ignacio Taibo’s No Happy Ending.  Since you have a reflection essay due on Tuesday (4/4) – – no asynchronous writing even this week. (See this page for full details on your reflection essay #1.)

Important: Zoom class session for Tuesday, March 28

The hits just keep happening.  Another bombogenesis/storm event is on track to hit the Bay Area tomorrow morning.  To minimize risk and inconvenience, let’s get together tomorrow – – Tuesday, March 28 – -via Zoom.  Check your SFSU email account for the link to our zoom session.

For Tuesday (3/28)

For the Tuesday after spring recess (March 28), let’s finish discussing Barbara Neely’s Blanche on the Lam and talk about The Usual Suspects.  You can view the move by clicking here (or on the link to the right). (Password is: Suspects)

Enjoy your recess!

For Thursday (3/9) and Tuesday (3/14)

For Thursday (3/9), finish reading The Decagon House Murders.

For Tuesday (3/14), read at least up to the end of Chapter 7 in Barbara Neely’s Blanche on the Lam.

Here’s your asynchronous event for this week:

In The Decagon House Murder, Ellery makes a strong argument that the best kind of detective narrative is the “chalet in a snowstorm” mystery.  In what ways is Blanche on the Lam a “chalet in a snowstorm” mystery of the kind that Ellery describes? In what ways is it not this kind of narrative?

Answer this question in no more than 500 words – – type up your response and bring it to class on Tuesday, March 14.