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Crime Fiction Notes Essay

Study:
– read over your essay and familiarise yourself with your wording – have discussions
– Figure out the arguments in your head
– practise exams
– don’t just Know the material REALLY UNDERSTAND it

The Big Sleep

Observation:
– conventions that are constant throughout generations of crime fiction genre (passion, detachment, love, hope, justice) are a reflection on the timeless and universal human needs – conventions that are subverted are a reflection of changing values and context

Context:
– 1950’s post WW2
– Economic depression
– Desire for hope, justice, escapism

Theorists:
Schwartz: “crime fiction serves to explicate the dangers and pleasures of life.” – There is human emotion with which the audience can empathise – Gives the illusion that they have entered the world of crime

Miller: “A rhetorically sound definition of genre must be centred not on the substance or form of discourse, but on the action it is used to accomplish,” – manipulate audiences empathy to engage them in the text – typical of TRADITIONAL crime fiction GENRE

Techniques:
(Remember these techniques interchangeably and only use the appropriate ones)

Context specific
1. Subvert
Context: Desire for hope
Convention: film noir subgenre traditionally seek to realistically portray the inescapable broken nature of society – subverted – Happy Ending Observation & Theorist:
– Imperative of genre to allow for subversion to become relevant to socio-economic or political context – Chandler, “the cycles and transformations of genre can be seen as a response to the changing political, social and economic conditions”

2.
Context:
– socio-economic context of 1940’s World War 2 America – midst of an economic depression
– employment was low and consequently crime was on the rise – yearning for justice and heroism to correct the broken nature of society Convention:
– Characterisation of Marlowe as determined and relentless – Ironic and self-depreciating dialogue “I’m just a guy whose paid to do other peoples laundry” embodies disposition of lone ranger – Heroic
connotations, “why did you have to keep going?”, “too many people told me to stop.” Observation and Theorist:

– Crime fiction gives the audience what it NEEDS

3.
Context: 1950’s audience can critique broken society and judge morality of characters Convention:
– Conforms to traditional structure of c/f: red herrings, witnesses, investigation, unveiling of mystery – Lack of narration; no point of view; audience critique characters – E.G. Marlowe, womanizer, heavy drinker, blatant disrespect for authority and the law, “I don’t know what I am going to tell them- but it will be pretty close to the truth” retain a degree of morality, reproach toward reprehensible behaviour, “my, my, my, so many guns for so few brains.” Reflects ambivalent noir concept that everything good is tainted with evil Observation and theorist:

– Convoluted plotline makes the audience “objective viewer” – Critique the broken society and the morality of characters – Livingston, “different genres are concerned with different world views…”

Universal
1. Conform
Context: common timeless human desires transcend context and audience and hence are constant throughout generations of crime fiction Convention:
– human fascination with romantic love interest
– foregrounded interaction between ‘hardboiled detective’ Marlowe and ‘femme fatal’ Vivien Rutledge – Verbal sparring soaked in double-entendres indicative of sexual tension; “do you always think you can handle people like trained seals?” “uh-huh and I usually get away with it too” Theorist:

– Colette, “romance pervades oral and written story-telling as far back as can be traced”

Anil’s Ghost

Observations
1. Post-colonial text; exposure to different culture; challenges Western perspective of crime fiction genre – Barthes, “it is in relation to other texts within a genre rather then in relation to lived experiences that we make sense of certain events within a text.” – Cohen, “Genres are open categories. Each member alters the genre by adding, contradicting or changing constituents, especially those members most closely related to it.” 2. Challenges not only our understanding of the genre, but also our perception of the world around us – Berger: “Never again will a single story be told as though it were only the one”. 3. Crime fiction can be a means of contextual political and philosophical discussion – The subjectivity of truth

– Nihilism and post-modernism

Techniques
1.
Context:
– socio-political context 1980’s Sri Lanka
– multifaceted civil war
– unimaginable for a western audience – but can relate to universal themes Convention:
– Mystery as a medium for Anil’s quest for her identity – Ambiguous characterisation forces reader to share in her frustration and confusion – Refuses to be defined or typecast, religious allusion, “The return of the prodigal”, “I am not a prodigal” – Symbolised through an aggressive campaign to chose her own name Observation and theorist:

– international audience relate to a common quest
– multifaceted nature of identity
– Ambiguity and struggle within an individual, reflective of wider post modern society

2.
Observation, context and theorist:
– Fister; “crime fiction deliberately exploits anxiety within the reader through reflecting and magnifying societies fear du jour.” – Terror of those living within civil war
Convention:
– explored through specific victims, personalise pain; agonising imagery Gunesena’s crucifixion, “prized the nails from the tarmac, freeing his hands” – fear impregnates every facet of society; personification of Sri Lankan national fear through simile used to warn against the dangers of truth, “truth is like a flame against a lake of petrol”

3.
Observation:
– aware of the horrendous acts of violence but absent from the actual event – never presume to understand the degree of suffering
– novel seeks to extrapolate sympathy NOT empathy
Convention:
– Subversion: post-modern style, not one single perspective, intrusive narration to explore a variety of characters perspectives. (Berger: “Never again will a single story be told as though it were only the one”.) – Foregrounds the differences; “the darkest Greek tragedies were innocent compared to what was happening here” compares European mythology with Eastern reality, highlights vast discrepancies between crime fiction Theorist:

– Texts challenge audience’s worldly perceptions; Cole: “This can function as a form of social protest and reform… giving crime writers the status symbol of social activists.”

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