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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2017
Oct 18, 2018
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WRIT 015 - Writing and Culture
 Only the detective, the investigator of knowledge en route to solving a crime, judiciously perceives that the same evidence might add up in (at least) two entirely different ways. Only the writer shares with the detective this same keen awareness of the power of human perception – that critical seeing requires both attention and empathy. San Francisco detective novelist, Dashiell Hammett wryly observes in The Thin Man, “The problem with putting two and two together is that sometimes you get four, and sometimes you get twenty-two.” Not all detectives perform quite as Bogartian a wit as Hammett’s Sam Spade, but detectives of any time and place are a rather singular breed, empowered by a second sight often blind to their own natures. Some wield a gun, others yield to the girl (or guy), while still others fascinate with their “little gray cells” or exude a mystique almost as alluring as following the track of their gum shoes in pursuit of evil. Our own game’s afoot as from beneath the fedora, we enjoy clandestine encounters with several detective stories, ferreting out the detective as the writer of truth. This section of the Writing seminar exposes students to several different examples of the detective narrative. We will follow how a variety of famous detectives, such as Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, and contemporary lesser known sleuths, such as the British Ellie Miller and the Swedish Saga Norén, compose their arguments of who dun it via the careful reading of evidence, understanding of how clues connect toward common conclusions, and relentless questioning of what one needs to know in order to arrive at a viable and persuasive truth. As detectives ourselves of how this genre inspires us to become more effective writers through becoming more self-consciously deliberate readers and thinkers, we will try out a medley of written exercises inspired by literary and cinematic detectives, including logic games, law briefs, and hero narratives. It is quite amazing the range of investigation this genre provokes. Here’s just a sampling of those questions awaiting your responses at spring semester’s crime scenes: To what effect does the genre provoke awareness of borders between genders, insiders and outsiders, and international perspectives and trust? Why do detective stories stand in for popular culture as well as brain exercise, historical re-enactment, and ethical catharsis? As detectives have become glamorized (as well as “realized”) in fiction and film, what is the significance of drawing attention to the detective as both hero and human? What are the uncanny effects of the Janus-faced relationship between detective and villain? How are human rights and the detective story comrades in arms? What are the intersections between historical violence and despair and detective fiction? How does the detective story provide a site for indignation, rage, and solace against reality (of injustice and prejudice especially) even as it re-enacts reality? Why is detective fiction FUN? Students should expect a course that excites joy in reading, enlivens writing as the power to show and persuade, and class meetings holding every voice accountable for discoveries encountered from the evidence found in our texts. Novels will include Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Tana French’s Broken Harbor, and Philip Kerr’s The Lady from Zagreb. Films and TV series include L.A. Confidential, True Detective, Broadchurch, and the Danish original, The Bridge.

3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours

Levels: Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Lecture, Seminar
All Sections for this Course

English Department

Course Attributes:
Mean Grade is Calculated

Mutual Exclusion:
This course carries a mutual exclusion with the following courses; you may not enroll in it if you have completed any of the following with a passing grade:
HUMW 011

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