Penguin Book of Victorian Women in Crime, ed. Michael Sims
A Body in the Library, Agatha Christie
Dead Man’s Folly, Agatha Christie
, Dorothy L. Sayers
Talking About Detective Fiction, P.D. James
Dates: Four Mondays, Sept. 10, Sept. 24, Oct. 1, Oct. 15, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
This class will meet in the coffee house at P&P. Light refreshments will be provided and are included in the price of the class.
Price: $135 ($120 members)
Classifying books by genre helps guide readers toward literature they enjoy, but these labels can also entrap work and have the opposite effect of keeping other would-be readers at bay. Golden-Age detective fiction, with its tightly woven plots, Edwardian enthusiasm for tradition, dangerous dames, nosy neighbors, clever villains and damsels in distress, falls neatly into the detective fiction category, but these books, with their sharp social observation, are, or should be, read more widely. Within this genre is an even more neglected subgenre: work written by women and starring women detectives.
This class will focus on Golden Age masters of the genre, primarily Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, and will consider the questions of how this work defies, or perhaps reinforces, the stereotypes of genre and gender. We will examine their work in light of their evolving cultural environments: the First World War and the changing societal roles of women. Literary critics from the hard boiled Raymond Chandler to the narrative expert Peter Brooks suggest that detective fiction offers an unvarnished window into society, and Sayers and Christie may well have been the most accurate social commentators of their time. So why are these authors not more widely appreciated as the Miss Marples of literature, offering astute reports on their rapidly changing worlds, rather than categorized as female authors discussing female issues?
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR
Hannah Oliver is a bookseller at Politics & Prose. She received her M.A. in Literature from American University. She has presented on detective fiction as it relates to existentialism at the Mid-Atlantic Popular Culture Association Conference, and on mystery authors at the National Popular Culture Association. She has also presented on modern medievalism, which was the subject of her graduate research, at the International Medieval Conference. She has taught two women’s history seminars at Carson-Newman College as well as served as a T.A. & research assistant at American University. Her passion is to foster discussion of classic works of literature in light of their societal settings and the impact they have had upon the popular imagination.