This course will open with a broad question of ‘what is literature?’ to look at how notions of authorship and creativity developed and changed over the ages, from middle ages to the present day. We will address issues such as literary canons and their formation, distinction between high and low culture, literary trends and fashions and popularisation of lists such as BBC’s Big read or ‘100 novels you should read’ recently circulated on facebook. We will aim to determine the reasons for their popularity, the selection of texts they feature and address questions of their validity to then focus, in the second half of the course, on one such text, or rather a collection of texts, frequently thought of as formative books of the Western canon: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.
On the basis of selected Sherlock Holmes stories (A Study in Pink, The Adventure of the Dancing Men, The Valley of Fear, The Sign of the Four and The Adventure of the Empty House) we will discuss the genre of crime fiction as well as modes of character and narrative development that Doyle employs and look at how the classic Sherlock stories formed and influenced culture, both at the time they were written and in the 20th and 21st centuries. We will consider some historical adaptations and pastiches of the stories as well as contemporary Sherlock Holmes comic strips and graphic novels and a selection of film adaptations, which will include the Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock movies, Guy Ritchie’s adaptations as well as BBC’s contemporary take on the stories in Sherlock.
The course will also feature a guest lecture, a trip to Durham Library archive that will showcase a range of publications from middles ages to early 20th century, including original 19th century copies of The Strand Magazine in which Sherlock Holmes adventures were originally published, as well as a murder mystery role play and a chance to apply the theory of crime fiction in practice during a creative writing session.
There is more to English Literature than just reading and it challenges you in ways you don't anticipate.Durham Student Ambassador