Animals in Detective Fiction
Since its origins in the mid nineteenth century, detective fiction has been populated by a huge array of beasts. If the genre begins, as is widely supposed (though not without some debate), with Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ (1841), then detective fiction’s very first culprit is an animal. Such beastly instances of criminal violence are among the genre’s most recurrent figurings of the non-human. Accordingly, like Poe’s frenzied ourang-outang on the spree in Paris, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) identifies a murderous aggression as part-and-parcel of animal nature. Detective fiction accommodates gentler and more law-abiding creatures too, however. Wilkie Collins, often thought of as the founder of the British detective novel, depicts the villain Count Fosco in The Woman in White (1859) surrounded by his ‘pretties’, ‘a cockatoo, two canary-birds and a whole family of white mice’, while Koko and Yum Yum, the feline sidekicks of Lillian Jackson Braun’s popular The Cat Who… series from the 1960s show animals living on the right side of the law. Detective fiction is also consistently concerned with the human as animal. From the ‘bloodhound’ Sherlock Holmes to Dashiell Hammett’s ‘wolfish’ Sam Spade, detection involves the development of beastly characteristics. Comparably, the criminal is often imagined as the animal in human form, a sign of the descent back down the evolutionary ladder towards a savage state the founder of criminology Cesare Lombroso identified as ‘criminal atavism’. Though often described as an essentially conservative form, the best examples of detective fiction unsettle rigid binarisms to intersect with developing concerns in animal studies: animal agency, the complexities of human/animal interaction, the politics and literary aesthetics of animal violence and victimhood, animal metaphor and the intricate ideological work of ‘animality’.
This volume will be the first to engage thoroughly with the manifold animal lives in this enduringly popular and continually morphing literary form. We are interested in essays that investigate the portrayal of animals in the detective fiction of any period and any region. It is anticipated that the volume will include essays that explore the genre’s most celebrated figures (Poe, Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Raymond Chandler, Georges Simenon, Hammett, Walter Mosley etc), alongside less well-known authors. We particularly welcome essays which combine questions of genre with attention to broader ethical and political concerns regarding the representation of animals, encompassing relevant theoretical developments in, for example, animal studies, posthumanism and ecocriticism.
Topics may include, but are not restricted to:
Animals as detectives
Detectives as animals
Detection, empire and the traffic in animal bodies
Detective fiction and natural history
Animals, animality and discourses of race
Questions of species and questions of gender
Animals as weapons
The volume is intended to form part of Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature, edited by Susan McHugh, Robert McKay and John Miller.
Please email abstracts of no more than 300 words along with a short biographical statement to Ruth Hawthorn (email@example.com) and John Miller (John.Miller@sheffield.ac.uk) by 31st March 2017. Essays will be commissioned by 1st May 2017 for delivery in Winter 2017/2018.
The Gibson Critics Don’t See:
Omissions, Lacunae, and Absences
There are few science fiction writers whose critical coverage can rival that of William Gibson, the pope of cyberpunk, whose Neuromancer (1984) stormed postmodern syllabi and majorly contributed to opening the academy to science fiction. Nevertheless, the critical attention to Gibson has been running mostly in several intensely interesting, albeit selective, grooves, leaving many aspects of his work unexplored.
This project aims to reexamine and reassess William Gibson’s literary oeuvre in the early decades of the 21st century. While the writer’s technological prescience, his obsession with brands, and his reflections on the nature of cognition have been investigated by numerous scholars, there are other dimensions of his work that warrant more critical attention. To address this lacuna, Polish Journal for American Studies (PJAS) seeks articles for a special issue devoted to the neglected, forgotten, and bypassed aspects of the Canadian master’s fiction. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
We are delighted to announce that the third Captivating Criminality international interdisciplinary conference, Crime Fiction, Felony, Fear and Forensics, will be taking place at Bath Spa University in the UK, 23rd-25th June 2016. The Call for Papers is below, and we look forward to receiving your abstracts.
Captivating Criminality 3:
Crime Fiction, Felony, Fear and Forensics
23 - 25th June 2016, Corsham Court, Bath Spa University, UK
The third Captivating Criminality conference will build upon and develop ideas and themes from the first two, Captivating Criminality: Crime Fiction, Darkness and Desire, and Captivating Criminality 2: Crime Fiction, Traditions and Transgression, which took place at Bath Spa University’s Corsham Court campus in 2014 and 2015. This conference will be organised by Bath Spa University and the Captivating Criminality Network: http://www.captivatingcriminalitynetwork.net/
Keynote Speakers (to be announced)
Crime Fiction has always been concerned with forensics and draws upon a rich history of the use of forensics in solving crime dating back to a Chinese handbook for coroners called The Washing Away of Wrongs (1247). These days, when we think of forensics the first things that come to mind may well be the cutting-edge of forensic science, often laboratory based and brought to public attention through popular television programmes such as CSI or Silent Witness. However, forensics has been central both to crime fiction and to gathering evidence in ‘real life’ crime: from the first ‘clues’ used in the emerging literary genre of crime fiction to the recognition that even DNA is not always 100% reliable, forensics is utilised in most of the texts that we would, however loosely, term crime fiction. Felony, having committed a serious crime, is often detected by a combination of forensics and fear; the fear of the felon who attempts to leave no trace. Sometimes a murderer ‘gets away with it,’ such as Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith’s The Ripliad; other times the felon can be wrongly convicted for a crime, or convicted for a crime different from the one they actually did commit, such as Dr.Bickleigh in Francis Iles’s Malice Aforethought. The intersections between felony, fear and forensics will be explored at this conference, and Bath Spa University and the Captivating Criminality Network invite scholars, practitioners and fans of crime writing to attend this international, interdisciplinary conference about these key elements of crime fiction and real crime. Proposals may be based around, but are not restricted to:
Please send 400 word abstracts to Dr Fiona Peters (firstname.lastname@example.org) by February 1st 2016. Proposals should include a title, your name and affiliation, and a contact email address.* Feel free to submit abstracts presenting work in progress as well as completed projects. We welcome proposals from postgraduates. Panel suggestions are also welcomed. Papers will be a maximum of 20 minutes in length. Delegates will be notified by the end of April.
Attendance fees: £155 (£95 students).
* Please note that these details will be distributed in the conference pack on the first day of the conference.
Dr. Fiona Peters is Reader in Crime Fiction at Bath Spa University in the UK. She is a Patricia Highsmith scholar and is director of the Captivating Criminality project.