Detecting Objects: The Material Item and Detective Fiction

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University of Portsmouth, UK

Centre for Studies in Literature, University of Portsmouth, UK
9 June 2014

Keynote speaker: Dr Janice Allan (University of Salford)

Pioneering works in the field of 'thing theory' such as Bill Brown's A Sense of Things: The Object Matter of American Literature (2003) and Elaine Freedgood's The Ideas in Things: Fugitive Meaning in the Victorian Novel (2006) have sought to reconceptualise the roles of objects in fiction, moving beyond Marxist conceptions of the commodity and seeing material items not as weak metonymies, but as tellers of obscured histories. Yet the focus of such explorations has tended towards a focus on canonical realism and the ways in which such texts invite us to concentrate on subjects at the expense of objects. This symposium considers the ways in which objects have always been of crucial importance to the popular genre of detective fiction, as either clues, weapons, or as other embodiments of history. We welcome proposals on any aspect of the reading of objects in detective fiction (and related genres such as the sensation novel and crime fiction) from the nineteenth century onwards.

Potential topics for proposals include (but are not limited to):

The material object as clue or detective
The material object as weapon or victim
Deconstructions of the animate/inanimate in detective fiction
Detective fiction as material object: book and publication history
Detective fiction and materialism
The material manifestations of detective/crime fiction fan cultures

Proposals of no more than 300 words and a brief CV should be sent to Dr Christopher Pittard at, by 28 March 2014.