Analyze Fritz Lang’ M (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0C2Te59egQ), Pick TWO of the rules from Rules of the Genre 1 or 2 (two rules are described below) that you think are MOST important for the film. Explain what the rule is, then explain how the film either follows the rule or breaks the rule. (Please do not use the quotes and other sources, Thank you)
Week One: Rules of the Genre 1
Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous detectives in fiction. The modern BBC adaptation of the Holmes stories with Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes has made Holmes popular again. You’ll be able to see the influence of Poe’s characters on Conan Doyle. What rules of detective fiction are followed or broken in the Holmes story?
Rules of Detective Fiction 1
The “Golden Age” of detective fiction was from the late 19th century until the 1940s. Famous British authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes,) Agatha Christie (Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot,) and Dorothy Sayers (Lord Peter Whimsey) established the conventions of the “murder mystery” genre. A list of the rules that these authors used, and readers expected, was published by Father Ronald Knowles in 1929. These are rules for “puzzle mysteries” that must be solved by the detective- and possibly by the alert reader.
Later authors and screenwriters in other countries tend to stick to these rules for “puzzle mystery” books and films, too.
Puzzle mysteries: the rules of detective fiction for “fair play” ( rules written by Father Ronald Knowles, 1929)
1- The criminal must be someone mentioned early in the story, not at the end.
2- All supernatural agencies are ruled out (no ghosts, vampires, etc.)
3- Not more than one secret room or passage can exist.
4- The detective can’t commit the crime.
5- The detective can’t use clues that are not available to the reader, so they must be mentioned.
6- The crucial clue can’t be revealed at the very end (see 5)
7- The stupid friend of the detective, the “Watson”, must not conceal any thought that passes through his mind…
8- Twins or doubles must not suddenly appear unless we have been prepared for them. (The BBC Sherlock mentions this rule in the episode “The Six Thatchers.” He says “It’s never twins.”)
9- Additional rule (Dorothy Sayers): The solution should not depend on a coincidence (revealed at the end.)
10) Sub-genre rules: The method of the brilliant detective: ( addition for this class)
A- The genius detective uses all the clues provided to the reader but uses deduction-based analysis of evidence to solve the puzzle (rational Enlightenment thinking- the scientific method); the evidence is often science-based, ex. fingerprints, chemical analysis, etc. Example: Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
B- The clever (amateur) detective uses all the clues provided to the reader, gathers evidence by shrewdly and carefully observing what is going on, and uses common sense and knowledge of human nature to solve the puzzle Example: Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple.
C- The experienced cop/PI (Private Investigator) uses realistic police techniques such as careful observation and analysis of crime scene evidence, interrogation of witnesses and suspects and observation/analysis of their reactions, footwork such as inspection of tax returns, and previous experience to solve cases. Example: Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, insurance fraud investigator.
Week Two: Agatha Christie, Rules of the Genre 2
This week, students will read Rules of the Genre 2, which are more recent rules (see below ). Then students will read ” Witness for the Prosecution”, and “Philomel Cottage,” two stories by Agatha Christie, a famous British mystery writer who is known for her intricate plots. Agatha Christie never breaks the rules of the Detective Fiction genre, but her puzzle mysteries can be hard to solve even for alert readers. Think about how the rules below apply to the two Christie stories.
You will answer questions on these stories and on the Poe and Conan Doyle stories on the Week Two Discussion Board assignment: Discussion Board One/ literature Due 10 pm Wed. 1/27
Rules of the Genre 2: More Recent Rules of Detective Fiction
1) Social class :
In the 19th and early 20th century stories, the British Golden Age, everyone involved in the mystery were social equals. The detectives and the suspects are all middle class or upper-middle-class/ aristocracy. Golden Age murder in England often takes place in mansions like Downton Abbey, or smaller versions of it, among the guests and family. The solution “the butler did it” was never true: the servants didn’t count and were never guilty, although they were sometimes witnesses. Authors sometimes played with this rule: servants were more important than they seemed.
2) Types of criminals/murderers, with the following motivations:
1) criminal masterminds who were purely evil (Professor Moriarty/ Sherlock Holmes, Hannibal Lector/ The Silence of the Lambs )
3) professional criminals/hitmen, OR people motivated by money (they would inherit money, they wanted to stop the blackmailer, etc)
4) people motivated by rage, jealousy, resentment: ex-lovers, etc
5) people motivated by irrational delusions, compulsions; random acts (” psycho killers” appear more in later stories and films)
3) The typical analysis of the suspect: who had the means, motive, and opportunity?
1) Means: who had access to the murder weapon, or a type of weapon used in the murder (or other crime)
2) Motive: who had a reason to want the victim dead, or commit some other type of crime; see types of suspects
3) Opportunity: Who could have been in the right place at the right time to do the deed?
4) Alibis :
Suspects can be ruled out if the detective (or reader) can prove that the suspect did not have the means, motive, and especially the opportunity: if they didn’t have a gun for example, OR didn’t have any reason to kill the victim, OR couldn’t possibly have been in the right place at the right time to do the deed.
5) ”Red herrings” :
“Red herrings” are false clues that make it seem as though a suspect DID have the means, motive, or opportunity when they really didn’t, (For example, the suspect’s fingerprints were on the gun, but it wasn’t her gun and she didn’t know how to use it)
clues that make it seem as though the suspect could NOT possibly have had the means, motive, or opportunity when they really did (For example, the suspect slid down the banister, killed the victim, and ran back upstairs in less than one minute- he wasn’t upstairs singing loudly in the bathtub at the time of the murder after all. This is really part of the plot of a story from this period!) For more information on Sherlock (TV series) check on this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherlock_(TV_series)
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