Detective Fiction Panel at LSU's Mardi Gras Conference February 11-12, 2010

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LSU English Graduate Student Association
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The detective has always been a central figure in crime narratives. Existing within a dizzying interplay of plots, themes, and recapitulations throughout the long and twisted history of the genre, crime solvers - be they private amateurs, police detectives, or in some other incarnation - have remained a vital force in keeping the crime narrative tradition alive. Indeed, it is often in the detective's resurfacing and shifting that the crime genre is revitalized. But how did this detective figure arise? In what context? And where is (s)he going?

The detective appears at least in the nineteenth century (with Poe in Dupin, with Gaboriau in Lecoq, and with Doyle in Holmes, for instance), but arguably even earlier in such works as Voltaire's Zadig. And with such murky beginnings, no end point seems to be in sight, either, given such reincarnations of the detective in Paul Auster's New York Trilogy, Pynchon's Crying of Lot 49, and Shane Black's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Along the way, of course, the detective has been invented and reinvented many times, in the guises of upper middle-class gentlemen (Poirot in Christie's novels); tough, loner idealists (Marlowe in Chandler's fiction); and violent misogynists (Hammer in Spillane's work).

We are interested in papers exploring how the detective figure shifts between media and narratives, including:

* how hardboiled detectives like Marlowe, Spade, Archer, and their ilk change the pattern set by Sherlock Holmes and his contemporaries
* how alternative detectives like Chester Himes' nihilistic Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones, Walter Moseley's Easy Rawlins, and Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski offer even further alternatives to the "classic" white male detective
* how the detective figure has been altered and influenced by the rise of cinema (especially in film noir), comics (e.g. Batman), video games (e.g. Max Payne), and television (e.g. Angel)
* how various adaptations of texts (as with the many Marlowe films) re-figure the detective
* how parodies (like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) complicate and comment on genre themes

While the conference encourages papers on narratives of imitation and innovation, the session chair will entertain abstracts of all sorts concerning detective narratives.

General information on the conference can be found at