ERIC Number: ED382958
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1995-Apr-12
Reference Count: N/A
Why Do Academics Love Mysteries, and Vice-Versa?
Svoboda, Frederic J.
A course on detective fiction proved to be very popular at the University of Michigan, Flint. Fifty students signed up for the class, which was supposed to be limited to 45. Surprisingly, though, only 10 of these identified themselves as readers of detective fiction; those remaining were mainly curious. The course featured a range of works beginning with the contemporary, such as Sue Grafton's "'A' Is for Alibi," Robert B. Parker's "Looking for Rachel Wallace," and Peter Weir's film "Witness," and Chester Himes's "Cotton Comes to Harlem," and moved back in time to Dorothy Sayers's "Gaudy Night" and Rex Stout's "Fer-de-Lance." What was it exactly that appealed to students during the semester? They liked the character of Kinsey Millhone for her humanity and the character of Spenser for his toughness and sensitivity. Not surprisingly they were enthusiastic about "Witness." On the other hand, "Cotton Comes to Harlem" was a stumper for them, as was "Gaudy Night"--the British setting was difficult to relate to. The instructor of the course learned several things: (1) that students shared his concerns as an academic reader--the philosophy of the genre was interesting to them once it was embodied in a hero or heroine; (2) that students shared his love of mysteries for their ability to transport them to other times and places; and (3) that they did not always believe the instructor's explorations of the conventions of mysteries to be the most exciting elements of the reading experience. (Contains course syllabus.) (TB)
Publication Type: Guides - Classroom - Teacher; Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Detective Stories; Mysteries (Literature); University of Michigan Flint
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Joint Meetings of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (Philadelphia, PA, April 12-15, 1995).