‘Cosy’ Crime? Darkness and Duplicity in Golden Age Detective Fiction.

Smith, T. (2019) ‘Cosy’ Crime? Darkness and Duplicity in Golden Age Detective Fiction. Undergraduate theses, University of Chichester.

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Throughout its history, Golden Age detective fiction has earned a reputation for being ‘cosy’. From George Orwell’s condemnation of the genre for being merely a ‘palliative equal to tea, aspirins, cigarettes and the wireless’1 to George Dove’s more recent criticism that the genre’s only concern is ‘to relax’2, critics have denounced the literary value of detective fiction for occupying a trivial constitution. However, is this a fair judgement of the genre?
This dissertation will examine six major works of the Golden Age that prove this preconception to be a misconception. Across three chapters, it will showcase how detective fiction is in fact much darker than critics assume. Where cosiness does exist, its purpose is twofold in its protection of underlying social anxieties. Far from being escapist, this genre exhibits a direct engagement with the political climate of the inter-war period. From the aftermath of the First World War to the movement of first wave feminism, detective novelists utilised their genre to remedy, and at times criticise, the concerns of their era. In addition, they also tested the boundaries of the detective novel by experimenting with other genres and finding ways to destabilise its conventions. In doing so, they created the case for this seemingly unassuming genre to hold a more prominent position in the literary world.
1 George Orwell, ‘The Detective Story’ in Seeing Things as They Are: Selected Journalism and Other
Writings (London: Penguin Books Ltd., 2016), 105-112, 105.
2 George N. Dove, The Reader and the Detective (Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University
Popular Press, 1997), 2.

Publication Type: Theses (Undergraduate)
Uncontrolled Keywords: ENL304 ENL305
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Academic Areas > Institute of Arts and Humanities > English and Creative Writing
Student Research > Undergraduate
Depositing User: Wendy Ellison
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2019 13:03
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2019 13:22
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/4830

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