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Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science

Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science


Part of Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture

  • Date Published: January 2004
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521527620

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About the Authors
  • This is a book about the relationship between the development of forensic science in the nineteenth century and the invention of the new literary genre of detective fiction in Britain and America. Ronald R. Thomas examines the criminal body as a site of interpretation and enforcement in a wide range of fictional examples, from Poe, Dickens and Hawthorne through Twain and Conan Doyle to Hammett, Chandler and Christie. He is especially concerned with the authority the literary detective manages to secure through the 'devices' - fingerprinting, photography, lie detectors - with which he discovers the truth and establishes his expertise, and the way in which those devices relate to broader questions of cultural authority at decisive moments in the history of the genre. This is an interdisciplinary project, framing readings of literary texts with an analysis of contemporaneous developments in criminology, the rules of evidence, and modern scientific accounts of identity.

    • First book-length treatment of the relationship between the development of forensic technology in the nineteenth century and the rise of detective fiction
    • Accessible and wide-ranging exploration of detective fiction 1850–1950
    • Innovative discussion of the relationship between British and American detective fiction
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a persuasive, original and stimulating work …' The Times Literary Supplement

    'Generously illustrated … and lucidly written, it is a forceful and persuasive analysis of the creative dialogue between forensic science, criminology, and detective fiction.' English

    'Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science is a major achievement.' Semiotica

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2004
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521527620
    • length: 364 pages
    • dimensions: 231 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • contains: 30 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The devices of truth
    Part I. Tell-Tale Hearts:
    2. The lie detector and the thinking machine
    3. The unequal voice in 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue'
    4. The letter of the law in The Woman in White
    5. The criminal type in 'A Case of Identity'
    6. The voice of America in Red Harvest
    Part II. Arresting Shots:
    7. The mug shot and the magnifying glass
    8. Photographic memories in Bleak House
    9. Double exposure in The House of the Seven Gables
    10. Negative images in 'A Scandal in Bohemia'
    11. Empty cameras in The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely
    Part III. Identifying Marks:
    12. The fingerprint and the map of crime
    13. Foreign bodies in A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four
    14. Accusing hands in Puddn'head Wilson
    15. International plots in The Maltese Falcon and Murder on the Orient Express
    16. Missing persons and secret agents
    Selected works for further reading.

  • Author

    Ronald R. Thomas, Trinity College, Connecticut

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