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.

For Tuesday (3/7)

Wed. and Thurs. were a complete bust – – thanks to my encounter with the flu.  Let’s move on.

For Tuesday (3/7), read up to the end of Chapter 6 in Yukito Ayatsui’s The Decagon House Murders.  Although we won’t be reading any of the classic parlor/country house mysteries referenced in the novel, the novel itself will give us an ample introduction to this strand of detective narrative.  (No “asynchronous” work for Thursday, March 2.)

For Thursday (2/23) [and Tuesday (2/28)]

For Thursday and Tuesday, watch Orson Welles’ 1941 flick, Citizen Kane. You can watch the movie here  .  (Password is: “Kane” – – without the quote marks.)

For your asynchronous activity, think about the “normal” structure of the bio-pic – –Malcolm XRaging BullThe Social NetworkFridaThe King’s Speech, etc.  In what ways does Citizen Kane invert or subvert or complicate the usual chronology we find in bio-pics and biographies?  How do these rearrangements help to make Citizen Kane into a detective story?  Write up a couple of paragraphs reflecting on this idea and bring these to class on Tuesday, February 28.

For Thursday (2/16) [and Tuesday (2/21)]

For Thursday, start reading Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 mystery/detective novel, The Maltese Falcon. When you get to Chapter 10 or so, take a break to  undertake a brief asynchronous writing event – – see details below.

For our asynchronous activity, take a moment to reflect on Hammett’s version of the detective.  How is Sam Spade similar to and different from Oedipus? from Sherlock Holmes? from the cops in Law and Order? Try to start with concrete things – – the detective’s appearance, the detective’s speech style, the detective’s character traits, the detective’s technique, etc.  Only after you’ve noted some concrete differences/similarities, take a moment to reflect on what these differences/similarities might signify at some broader level – – the detective’s social role, the detective as a role model or exemplum, the ideology of crime and justice, representations of class, gender, and geography, etc.  Type this analysis/reflection up and bring it to class on Tuesday, February 21.  I don’t think you need to write any more than a page or so – – but if you’re inspired, ride the vibe!

When we meet in class next Tuesday, February 21, let’s try to talk about the whole novel.

Questions?  Let me know.


For Thursday (2/9) [and Tuesday (2/14)]

We have a couple of things to do for Thursday (2/9):

  1. Read Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Man with the Twisted Lip.”
  2. After you’ve read this classic Sherlock Holmes story, let’s think a bit about the similarities and differences between Conan Doyle’s version of the detective narrative and the detective story we read in Sophocles’ Oedipus.  Take a look at the questions below, think about your answers, respond to each question in no more than 250 words.  Type and print your response and bring it to class on Tuesday (2/9).

Here are the questions to consider:

  1. Crimes and misdemeanors: what is/are the basic crimes in Sophocles and Conan Doyle that must be resolved or ameliorated? Do you see any similarities or differences among these crimes and their consequences?
  2. The detective: in Sophocles and Conan Doyle, what are the detective’s basic characteristics? goals? actions? Again, do you see any big similarities or differences between these two versions of the detective?
  3. Plot: What is revealed when to the reader/viewer?  Is this process different from/similar to the process as it is encountered/experienced by the detective? Recall our discussion on Tuesday about story (chronology of events) and plot (how these events are represented in the text we read) – – do you see any patterns of re-arrangement between story and plot in “The Man with the Twisted Lip” like the one we noticed in Oedipus?  How so?

For Tuesday (2/14), you’ll want to view Episode 3 of Season 1 of Law and Order (Subterranean Homeboy Blues”).  I’ve looked all over the web and even peered into forboding corners of the “dark” web to discover a place to view old episodes of Law and Order.  For now, try the version linked above and here, or purchase the episode on Amazon, here.



For Tuesday (2/7)

For class on Tuesday (in our classroom), let’s talk about Sophocles’ play, “Oedipus Rex.” Though was authored more than two millenia ago, “Oedipus” offers an enduring template for the detective narrative – – its basic elements, its structure, and its enjoyments.

As you read and think about Sophocles’s play, try to keep a couple of basic categories in mind:

the crime: what is/are the basic crimes in Sophocles, especially the crime/s that motivate the work of detection?

the detective: what are the detective’s basic characteristics? goals? actions?

the plot: what is revealed when to the reader/viewer?  is this different from/similar to the process encountered by the detective? how does a detective plot resolve itself and what kinds of things must happen before this occurs?

For Thursday (Feb. 2) [and Tuesday, Feb. 7]

For Thursday, start reading “Oedipus Rex.” (You can find Sophocles’ play in a variety of electronic formats here.)  You’ll want to finish the play by the time we meet again in our classroom on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

“Oedipus Rex” is a real crime drama.  (Try to keep track of how many crimes or suspected crimes are recounted over the course of the play.)

One big question I have about the narrative – – and a question you might keep in mind as you read through the play: according to Sophocles, is it a good or a bad thing to be a detective?

[Though I’ll usually give you some brief piece of writing or other activity to complete for Thursdays, we won’t start these regular events until next week.  For this Thursday, your only task is to read and reflect.]