Mystery fiction (aka detective or crime fiction) of the early 20th century is often divided into British soft-boiled whodunnits and American hard-boiled detective fiction. Both these types of literature became enormously popular across social strata. They also generated (and continue to generate) material for film and television.
Indeed, the interwar period between World War I and World War II is known as the Golden Age of soft-boiled mystery writers: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh. The same period became the era of film noir, drawing on the hard-boiled detective novels of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
In this class, we will read and discuss selected examples of both modes in the context of the interwar and war periods, which will allow us to explore the role of popular culture in both exposing and containing societal anxieties and aspirations.
Dr. Elzbieta Foeller-Pituch is the Assistant Director of the Chabraja Center for Historical Studies at Northwestern University, where she also teaches literature classes.
- Agatha Christie, The Thirteen Problems. Harper Collins Paperbacks, 2017. ISBN: 978-0008196523
- Agatha Christie, The Labors of Hercules. William Morrow, Company, 2011. ISBN: 9780062073983
- Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 1989. ISBN: 978-0679722618
- Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 1992. ISBN: 978-0679722649
- Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, 1988. ISBN: 978-0394758282
- Vera Caspary, Laura. The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2005. ISBN: 978-1558615052
For the first meeting, please read the following:
- “The Red-Headed League” and “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892) and “Silver Blaze” from The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1893)—available online at Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/48320/pg48320-images.html https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/834/pg834-images.html#chap01
- Agatha Christie, The 13 Problems (1932).
Cost and Registration
This class is full, but you can still register for the waitlist on Learning Stream.
Five sessions, $205 ($184.50 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.
To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.