UndeliveredDetective Fictions

Earl Jackson, Jr.

Fall 1996

University of California, Santa Cruz

Hi Scott, thanks for taking over. said you’d probably make a better me than I would. I concurred, citing your more consistent seriousness, and your RKO-esque medium cool in the face of the always disappointing facticity of everything. All by means of saying thank you very much. Here it goes/I go.

First, I was going to sketch the genealogy of the detective story, from Poe to somewhat closer to the present day, but the details on this aren’t really important. What is important, is Poe’s seminal role in the development of the genre, and (next week) the odd „anxiety of influence“ Doyle allows to seep through the non-existent pores of Holmes. Also within the Poe phenomenon, the strange dynamic binaries between the apprehension of an Absolutely Unintelligible, and the obsession with a vehement rationality. (Both these forces are found in his stories, but the emphases shift.)

Second: I was going to talk about the underlined portions of the text below (which I will eventually hyperlink for a web review.) These observation are so important, I think, I want to bring up chess everytime it appears, – certainly in Chandler. But I will (once we’re all really underway) like to provoke and prod and wheedle, cajole and tease out as extended a discussion (over the course of the course, not just making people suffer for an hour and half) of the categories Poe arranges here- how he lines up Chess, Checkers, and Bridge (to use the modern terms).

Third: Annotation/Glossing. I would give techinical definitions of some of his key terms: analytic/synthetic reasoning; and fancy and Imagination (here I’d bring in Coleridge, of course).

Fourth: lead back discussion into the nature of the pleasure that the detective story or mystery story offers. Will be only a threshold toward which I hope we’ll flee often – the pleasure of the story, the drive for knowledge, and the variations in theories of meaning and resolution of enigmas that we can come up with. I’m working on an outline of the major tendencies in Anglo-American criticism and critical theory – and I’d like to see how they each match up with certain peculiarities in the implicit theories of meaning and the meaningful that structure and motivate the mysteries/detective/and crime fiction we’ll consider.Whew, sorry this took so long. I hope this translates well.