Date of Award

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

College/School

College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Department/Program

English

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Jeffrey Gonzalez

Committee Member

Adam Rzepka

Subject(s)

Poe, Edgar Allan, -- 1809-1849 -- Criticism and interpretation, Poe, Edgar Allan, -- 1809-1849 -- Murders in the Rue Morgue, Detective and mystery stories, American -- History and criticism

Abstract

This paper traces the continuity of Edgar Allan Poe’s archetypal “creative and resolvent” detective from the nineteenth century’s classical detective fiction into the twentieth century’s hardboiled detective fiction. Specifically, this paper asserts that the duality first suggested by Poe in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841) did not only define classical era detectives, but it also persisted into the radically different hardboiled era of American detective fiction. First, this paper examines the cultural contexts of each era and establishes the shared links between the resolvent—or analytical—traits and creative—or abstract and Romantic—traits of classical era detectives C. Auguste Dupin and Sherlock Holmes and hardboiled detectives Race Williams, the Continental Op, Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe. This paper claims that the analytical skills of classical detectives are similarly present in hardboiled detectives, and that the creative eccentricity and melancholy of the classical detectives manifests as personal codes of Romantic honor in the hardboiled era. This complicates the traditional understanding of each era, as the two sub-genres share the same core character type yet tend to produce opposite messaging about the nature of liberal society. This paper contends that the creative and resolvent duality of both era’s detectives made them perfectly suited to either address or expose the contradictions of the capitalist liberal democracies that produced them. Ultimately, this paper concludes with an examination of the socioeconomic motivations of each era’s detectives and the resultant societal critique enabled by creative and resolvent duality.

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