Crime Fiction provides a lively introduction to what is both a wide-ranging and hugely popular literary genre. Using examples from a variety of novels, short stories, films and televisions series, ...
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Crime Fiction as World Literature Stewart King
world-literature framework. It argues that Abstract. This article explores crime ﬁction within a world-literature the study of national traditions can blind us to the dialogue across borders and languages between texts and authors. It proposes a reading practice that aims to develop a more nuanced understanding of this truly global genre.
From its origins in the nineteenth century until the present day, the crime story has crossed borders and languages, languages, and everywhere ever ywhere it has settled local writers have appropriated and rewritten it to address their own speciﬁc concerns. concerns. However, despite the international spread of crime ﬁction and the success of crime writers from all over the world such as Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Simenon, Dashiell Hammett, and (more recently) Henning ManMan kell, Natsuo Kirino, Qiu Xiaoling, Fred Vargas, and James Lee Burke, there has been little attempt to understand the genre in its global context. This article seeks to explore the international dimensions dimensions of crime ﬁction by framing frami ng the genre within a worldworld-literature literature framework. In doing so, it seeks answers to the following questions: why study crime ﬁction as world literature? What is the relationship between nationally focused studies of crime ﬁction and a world-literature world-literature approach? approach? And what form or forms might a practice of world crime ﬁction take? The examples discussed here come mostly from the practice of Anglophone crime ﬁction criticism. Writing in 1999, John G. Cawelti observed that mystery criticism lags behind in “the regionalization regionalization and the internation i nternationalization alization of the detective story” (“Detecting” 54) and, in a later publication, he lamented that “English and American critics are largely large ly unaware of the t he work done by the French and Germans” ( Myster Mystery y 311 ). Cawelti’s criticism is borne out in the numerous introductory introductory studies to crime ﬁction that prioritize the Anglo-American AngloAmerican canon and either ignore or treat non–Anglophon non– Anglophonee texts text s superﬁcially. One such example is the Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction in which Martin Priestman, 1
the editor of this otherwise excellent introductory text, recognizes that crime ﬁction is “multilayered rather than unidirectional” (6), but the collection itself does not reﬂect this; it consists of studies of Anglo-American crime narratives with one exception: a single chapter on French crime ﬁction by Sita Schütt. 2 In the years since Cawelti called on scholars of crime ﬁction to engage more broadly with nonmainstream and non–Anglophone detective, mystery, and crime narratives, a growing number of scholars have done just that, producing book-length studies of crime narratives from France (Gorrara; Hutton ), Italy (Past; Pezzotti; Pieri), the Iberian Peninsula (Godsland; Vosburg), Japan (Kawana; Seaman), Cuba and Mexico (Braham; Uxó), and Scandinavia (Forshaw; Nestingen and Arvas).3 Despite undoubtedly expanding the parameters of mystery literature and developing greater awareness of the diverse practice of crime ﬁction globally, these studies have not been able to break the monopoly of the AngloAmerican canon; this continues to sit front and center, whereas the studies of national literatures are relegated to the margins with little critical engagement between the two. 4 Furthermore, although these works help to raise awareness of the variety of crime narratives practiced throughout the world, studies of crime ﬁction works that fall outside the Anglo-American focus, like analyses of the Anglo-American canon, rarely reﬂect the global dimensions of mystery writing. In some ways, these very studies contribute to their own marginalization in crime ﬁction criticism by tending to limit their object of analysis to a speciﬁc national or regional literary tradition. These studies of national crime ﬁction reveal a pattern, or what Franco Moretti calls a “ law of literary evolution” (58, emphasis in original), by which the global genre becomes nationally bounded. This occurs through the focus on the progress toward the production of truly autochthonous crime narratives by writers in the speciﬁc national tradition on which the scholar works. In this pattern, analyses tend to begin with the translation of foreign—mainly Anglo-American and French— models such as the novels and short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Georges Simenon into the national language. In the second phase, scholars identify and evaluate crime narratives by local writers in terms of the degree to which they are imitative of foreign models or contribute to the creation of national crime ﬁction. In my own ﬁeld of crime ﬁction from Spain, for example, critics recognize that the genre came late to Spanish letters, with the ﬁrst acknowledged detective novel being La gota de san gre (The Drop of Blood, 1911 ) by Naturalist writer Emilia Pardo Bazán (see ﬁgure 1). Yet, despite receiving praise for introducing the genre into Spanish literature, Pardo Bazán is also taken to task by critics because La gota de sangre was seen as “being based more on imitation of foreign models than on the very real possibility of creating an autochthonous criminal literature” (Valles Calatrava 9 1). 5 Critics also decry the fact that, in the period Figure 1. Author Emilia Pardo Bazán. Frontispiece spanning Pardo Bazán’s tentative ﬁrst steps from Pardo Bazán, A Christian Woman (189 1). in the genre to the 1970s, the majority of
crime writers from Spain tended to reproduce foreign patterns, as authors reportedly responded to readers’ expectations and set their stories abroad in exotic locales and populated their narratives with foreign characters. In many cases, this act of national literary transvestism was completed by the use of foreign (usually English or faux English) pseudonyms, with accompanying ﬁctitious English titles from which the novels were supposedly translated into Spanish.6 Such was the case of Fernanda Cano who, writing as Mary Francis Colt, wrote 13 novels between 1953 and 1963 in the English cozy tradition. For scholars of Spanish crime ﬁction, writers like Cano or Colt are not seen as authentically Spanish, and therefore they rarely attract critical attention beyond the anecdotal. Instead, scholars are more interested in so-called authentic works of Spanish crime ﬁction, the national legitimacy of which is assured by “characters who openly ﬂaunt typical Spanish traits in the characterization of their personality and in their language [and] . . . sit uations presented in the Spanish detective novels [that], while somewhat universal, continue to correspond directly to social conﬂicts particular to Spanish reality” (Colmeiro 265). The development of Spanish crime ﬁction from translation, through imitation to original creation sketched here, is representative of the way in which critics tend to chart the expansion of crime stories beyond the Anglo-American canon (see, for example, Pieri; Seaman). Such an approach centers very much on the development of a national literary tradition at the expense of international connections between works. This approach is understandable, given that literary scholars tend to be based within nationally focused university departments of English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, or Scandinavian languages and tend to have to bow to institutional pressures to produce scholarship in their ﬁeld. The aim here is not to undermine the legitimacy of national approaches; it is important to understand how the genre develops in a particular society and how local writers adopt and adapt the genre to suit their speciﬁc circumstances. Nevertheless, although the national approach is understandable and a necessary academic practice, this article argues for the denationalization of crime- ﬁction studies. That is, in place of the national framework that dominates current critical practice, it is proposed here that we read crime ﬁction as an example of world literature to gain greater insights into the global reach of the genre. From its beginning as a concept, world literature has sought to avoid the straitjacket of national traditions. In one of the earliest uses of the term, Goethe proposed that “[n]ational literature is now a rather unmeaning term,” because “poetry is the universal possession of mankind, revealing itself everywhere and at all times in hundreds and hundreds of men” (Goethe and Eckermann 22–23). To understand literature more fully, Goethe believed that we should follow his practice and “look . . . in foreign nations,” because “the epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach” (Goethe and Eckermann 23). Since Goethe ﬁrst sketched his vision of world literature, scholars have struggled to deﬁne this elusive term. Is it all literature that has been produced everywhere and throughout history? Is it limited to a selection of the literary masterpieces from around the globe? What is its relationship with national literatures? And, focusing on the subject of crime ﬁction, what are the implications for the study of crime narratives from around the globe? The practice of world literature can be reduced to two broad approaches: inclusive and exclusive. In developing what he calls “transcultural” literary analysis, Swedish scholar Anders Pettersson maintains there should be “no predetermined national or temporal limitations” placed on the study of literature (463). Pettersson does acknowledge that “[t]here is a tendency to think of the united literatures of the world as something that is simply too
vast to contemplate” (466), but he argues that continental European scholars do exactly that and he cites several examples, including the German New Handbook of Literary Studies , published in 25 volumes, as evidence that world histories of literature can be produced (466). While acknowledging that world literature, as described in Pettersson’s transcultural literature, “may in some sense exist as an ideal order, a hypothetical mental construct” (Damrosch, What 111 ), David Damrosch and Claudio Guillén argue for more restrictive interpretations of world literature. Guillén calls the inclusive approach a “wild idea, unattainable in practice, worthy not of an actual reader but of a deluded keeper of archives” (39), whereas for Damrosch, a “category from which nothing can be excluded is essentially useless” (What 1 10). Instead, Damrosch proposes that world literature encompasses “all literary works that circulate beyond their culture of origin, either in translation or in their original language” (What 4). Perhaps recognizing that such a deﬁnition still leaves scholars facing an enormous literary ﬁeld, Damrosch provides a further restriction; he limits world literature to the relevance of any text at any particular moment: “a work only has an effective life as world literature whenever and wherever it is actually present within a literary system beyond that of its original culture” ( What 4, emphasis in original). There are many crime novels that conform to Damrosch’s and Guillén’s criterion for a text being treated as a work of world literature, particularly the novels of Christie and Simenon. With works translated into more than 100 languages, sales of 1 billion in English, and a further billion in other languages, Christie is allegedly the bestselling author of all time. Likewise, in the mid– 1980s it was estimated that the Belgian-born Simenon was the most read living novelist on the planet (Platten 15). These two writers are perhaps just the most well-known examples of the many crime writers whose works are read far beyond the public for which they were originally produced. More recently, the global popularity of socalled Nordic noir with Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Camilla Lackberg is ongoing proof of the genre’s international relevance and hence its place within the sphere of world literature. The world “literariness” of crime ﬁction is not only evident in the number of languages into which a novel is translated or in the number of sales worldwide. Although these are important markers, works and authors can be identiﬁed who enter into the pantheon of world crime ﬁction through the numerous intertextual references to earlier works and writers that appear in the crime narratives of writers around the globe. Two such examples are pioneering Japanese and Catalan crime writers Taro Hirai and Jaume Fuster. Taro Hirai, for instance, expresses his debt to the author of “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” in his nom de plume, Edogawa Rampo, whereas Jaume Fuster acknowledges the inﬂuence of Ross Macdonald and Dashiell Hammett in his short-story collection Les claus de vidre (The Glass Keys), featuring his detective Lluís Arquer, a Catalanized version of Macdonald’s private investigator Lew Archer.7 Although the global reach of crime ﬁction in translation and in the original should make it an ideal example of world literature, the practitioners of world literature have largely ignored the crime genre, except perhaps as teaching practice (see Buckler). The absence of crime ﬁction in world-literature approaches may perhaps be due to the focus on so-called works of high culture; those literary texts considered worthy of study and translation beyond the country in which they were produced. This is evidenced in the titles of popular anthologies of world literature such as The Best of the World’s Classics (1909), The Harvard Classics (1910), Masterpieces of World Literature in Digest Form (1949), and the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces (1956). More recent anthologies such as the six-
volume Longman Anthology of World Literature (2004) and the Norton Anthology of Western Literature (2004, 8th ed.), although more open to noncanonical texts through inclusion of folklore and popular songs, also exclude examples of modern works of popular ﬁction such as science ﬁction, erotic, fantasy, romance, and, of course, crime ﬁction. The exclusion of popular ﬁction in the study of world literatures replicates a division that already exists in literary studies. As Ken Gelder argues, “it can often seem as if Literature and popular ﬁction exist in a constant state of mutual repulsion and repudiation” ( 11 ). In this scheme, world literature represents quality and “its key values are called originality, complexity, closure, autonomy, personality, multilayeredness, timelessness, and so on,” whereas popular ﬁction is characterized by quantity, “and its credo is a cluster of value gathering notions such as surprise or novelty . . ., format and genre (and, on a more microstylistic level, formulaic writing), sensationalism and voyeurism . . ., and ﬁnally heteronomy” (Baetens 336 –37). The underlying motivation for the study of world literature seems to be that if you want to analyze texts across national traditions, then you should choose quality works that justify the time and effort invested in stepping outside a national tradition. Whereas world-literature scholars have ignored the detective genre, crime- ﬁction experts have attempted to comprehend better the global reach of the genre. This can be seen in the few studies of so-called “international” crime ﬁction published to date. These studies—Investigating Identities: Questions of Identity in Contemporary International Crime Fiction (2009) edited by Marieke Kranjenbrink and Kate M. Quinn; The Foreign in International Crime Fiction: Transcultural Representations (20 12) edited by Jean Anderson, Carolina Miranda, and Barbara Pezzotti; as well as Peter Baker and Deborah Shaller’s edited collection Detecting Detection: International Perspectives on the Uses of a Plot (2012)—mirror Pettersson’s inclusive approach and do not place limits upon the study of crime ﬁction. As a result, these excellent collections contain examples of crime ﬁction from around the globe, including China, France, the Paciﬁc Islands, Australia, Austria, Russia, Cuba, India, and Italy. The global dimension of crime ﬁction is also analyzed in studies of postcolonial crime ﬁction such as The Post-Colonial Detective (2001) edited by Ed Christian, Postcolonial Postmortems: Crime Fiction from a Transcultural Perspective (2006) edited by Christine Matzke and Suzanne Mühleisen, and Detective Fiction in a Postcolonial and Transnational World (2009) edited by Nels Pearson and Marc Singer. Nevertheless, although there are exceptions (see Chiaroni; Erdmann, “Nationality”; Mathur), in these international and postcolonial collections the majority of the chapters are limited to the national tradition to which the author or text belongs, be it Catalan or Canadian, Algerian or Argentine. The responsibility for making the international connections between texts and authors is largely left to the editors of the respective collections and, of course, to those readers who read more than one chapter. 8 An exception to national-bounded approaches to crime ﬁction can be found in the work of German scholar Eva Erdmann, who is one of the few critics to theorize the notion of world crime ﬁction. 9 Like Pettersson, Erdmann advocates inclusiveness. In “ Topographical Fiction: A World Map of International Crime Fiction,” she proposes mapping the settings in which crime novels take place to “demonstrate the international range of crime ﬁction and, not least, . . . show up the gaps in a universal crime- scene world” (279). This map, Erdmann argues, allows us to discover the existence or absence of Kenyan or Korean crime ﬁction; to identify locations where crime novels concentrate such as New York, London, Barcelona, Paris, Cape Town, and Buenos Aires; and to see how different authors characterize these places. Erdmann’s atlas of world crime ﬁction is an exciting proposal,
but it also has its limitations. Where would Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct novels, set in the ﬁctitious city of Isola, appear on such a map? Where exactly would we locate Christie’s St. Mary Mead, home to Miss Jane Marple? Furthermore, although she opens up the study of crime ﬁction to texts from around the world, Erdmann—to a certain degree—binds the texts into another national framework by attributing nationality to the locus criminalis (“Nationality” 12). She does this by attributing nationality to the location in which the crime novel is set irrespective of whether the author is from that country or not. Thus, in her example, Erdmann suggests that Robert Wilson’s Javier Falcón series set in Seville “may be assigned geographically to the multiple category: ‘Spanish literature of British origin’” (277). Wilson, however, also produces Portuguese literature in A Small Death in Lisbon (1999) and, following Erdmann’s classiﬁcation, has produced what is probably the most well-known works of Beninese literature in his Bruce Medway novels set in the West African republic. This return to the national within the framework of international crime ﬁction highlights the difﬁculties of an inclusive approach in practice. A history or a map of world crime ﬁction would be a massive undertak ing, given that thousands of crime novels are produced each year in the United States alone, and if all crime novels produced elsewhere were included as well, it is clear how quickly a history or even a map of world crime ﬁction becomes an impossible undertaking. Faced with such an overwhelming task, it is easy to understand why scholars choose to remain safely within the borders of a national literary tradition. Despite these difﬁculties, a world-literature approach to crime ﬁction can be achieved, but not by reading more novels. Even Pettersson’s inclusive approach does not imply that scholars have to attempt to read every work of crime ﬁction that has ever been published in order to consider themselves experts. Rather, Pettersson compares the study of world literature to that of world history, arguing that just as you “would expect a historian, regardless of his or her precise specialty, to have some modest grasp of world history,” so, too, should literary scholars have “a modicum of transcultural literary- historical knowledge” (466). Scholars can and should work on smaller segments (467). However, these “smaller segments” should not be limited to what Pettersson calls the “cultural claustrophobia” of national literatures (464), such as the majority of chapters that make up the international and postcolonial crime-ﬁction collections previously mentioned. Instead, he urges literar y scholars to overcome “the risk of parochialism in a scholar’s or critic’s outlook and writings” by bringing novels from different traditions together and getting them to speak to each other and, at times, against each other (466). In applying Pettersson’s transcultural approach to the study of crime ﬁction, rather than studying the development of the crime genre in a particular national tradition, scholars could proﬁtably analyze the evolution of particular subgenres such as the murder mystery, the hard- boiled novel, the spy thriller, and so forth across different countries and languages or study the appearance of new tropes—for example, the characterization of women detectives across the globe. Moretti observes that “world literature is not an object, it’s a problem, and a problem that asks for a new critical method” (55, emphasis in original). Likewise, Damrosch proposes that world literature is not so much an object of study, a canon of great works that must be read, but a reading practice, a way of analyzing literary texts outside of the cultural and intellectual tradition from which they come ( What 297). The practice of reading world crime ﬁction requires a shift from studying the production of crime ﬁction to its consumption. That is, a shift from writers to readers. In studying crime ﬁction as world literature, we should not completely abandon the
study of crime writers in their national context, as an understanding of authors who selfconsciously write within a speciﬁc national tradition is important in itself. Instead, it is proposed here that we approach crime ﬁction in the way that many crime ﬁction readers do. Rarely do readers only read novels by writers from a single country or set exclusively in a particular country; rather, they often enjoy a range of texts written by authors from different countries and/or writers who set their novels in numerous foreign locales (see Schreier). Many readers of crime ﬁction read the genre in a worldly way, and to develop crime ﬁction as world literature, scholars need to create an analytical practice that reﬂects this. Such a practice is based on the need to make connections between works and writers. Italo Calvino argues that the study of literature “is always a dialog amongst many voices which intersect and reply to each other within literature and outside it” (4 12). In this vein, the objective of a world-literature approach to crime ﬁction is to establish this dialogue between writers and texts across national, cultural, linguistic, and temporal borders. To create this dialogue, a process of triangulation between the world, the text and the reader is required. As David Damrosch puts it: As we triangulate between our own present situ ation and the enormous variety of other cultures around and before us, we won’t see works of world literature so fully enshrined within their cultural context as we do when reading those works within their own traditions, but a degree of distance from the home tradition can help us to appreciate the ways in which a literary work reaches out and away from its point of origin. If we then observe ourselves seeing the work’s abstractions from its origins, we ga in a new vantage point on our own moment. ( What 300)
Damrosch’s triangulation process can be proﬁtably applied to the study of crime ﬁction as world literature. In practice, the focus of world-literature studies is generally deﬁned in three ways: (1) as a study of the classics from around the globe, (2) as masterpieces of literature from different national traditions, and (3) as windows onto speciﬁc cultures. Although a case can be made for the creation of a canon of masterpieces of world crime ﬁction that every scholar should know, the study of crime ﬁction as world literature falls most comfortably within the third category —windows onto speciﬁc cultures and societies. As Anderson, Miranda, and Pezzotti argue, the proliferation of crime novels around the globe means that crime ﬁction could be considered “a new form of travel writing” ( 1), albeit to places and situations the reader may never wish to experience ﬁrsthand. As a form of travel writing, crime novels frame how readers experience the town, city, or country depicted in the story itself. They do so by focusing attention on how speciﬁc societies and cultures represent transgression and its policing. Heather Worthington maintains: [a] crime implies the violation of a community code of conduct and demands a response in terms of the code. It always depends on a legal deﬁnition, and the law. As a result , in representing crime and its punishment, whether evoked or merely anticipated, detective novels invariably project the image of a given s ocial order and the implied value system that helps sustain it. By naming a place and by evoking the socio- economic order that prevails within it, they conﬁrm, in fact, that there can be no transgression without a code, no individual criminal act without a community that condemns it. ( 120–21)
Crime novels thus provide a means of understanding the relationship between crime and community in the popular imagination. Who is k illed, where, why, by whom, and how the investigation resolves or does not resolve the case; what punishment, if any, is meted out to the criminal—these are all factors that can shape a particular community’s under-
standing of transgression. According to Cawelti, the “criminal act disrupts the social fabric , and the detective must use his unique investigative skills to sew it back together again. In the process, the skillful writer can reveal certain aspects of a culture that otherwise remai n hidden” (“Detecting” 55). In the sense that transgression is culturally speciﬁc, the national context of a crime novel becomes important and is not entirely redundant as a category when adopting a world-literature approach. However, whereas a nation-bounded approach examines the transgression within the national context, a world-literature approach seeks to take the crime beyond the national borders to compare and contrast it with the representation of criminal acts and their policing in a number of different contexts. Critics have highlighted that studying speciﬁc genres can facilitate the analysis of texts across different literary traditions, as the conventions that deﬁne any particular genre “play a major role in the shaping of works and in forming audiences’ expectations for them” (Damrosch, How 47). As Damrosch suggests, “we can learn a good deal about a culture by seeing which elements a given tradition highlights, and how its writers use them” ( How 47). Moretti makes a similar point; he argues that “comparative morphology is such a fascinating ﬁeld” because by “studying how forms vary, you discover how symbolic power varies from place to place” (66). Although in his example Damrosch focuses on high cultural forms like drama and the epic, this genre-centered approach can be used to study popular ﬁctions as well. The crime genre, with its t ypologies and topoi formulae, is one such example. Gelder notes there is probably not a more formulaic type of popular ﬁction than the crime narrative, and he argues that great effort must be made to distinguish works through characters and places (63). In analyzing crime ﬁction within a world- literature approach, the very repetitive and formulaic aspects of the genre that are so often derided by literary scholars instead become positive features. What direction might a practice of world crime ﬁction take? In some ways, both the inclusive and the exclusive approaches to the study of world literature can be deployed usefully in the study of crime ﬁction from around the globe. Although no crime novel is necessarily excluded, scholars need to focus on more manageable elements in the interests of practicality. As mentioned earlier, an evolutionary approach could focus on the adoption and adaptation of the murder mystery, the hard-boiled novel, or the spy thriller across the world. Such an approach could also analyze the use of a particular literary device across time and place such as the so-called “locked-room mystery” ﬁrst used by Edgar Allan Poe in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” ( 1841) and later developed in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” ( 1892) and The Valley of Fear (1914–15); Gaston Leroux’s Le Mystère de la chambre jaune (publ. as The Mystery of the Yellow Room, 1908); and more recently in Stieg Larsson’s Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (2005; publ. as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2008), in which the island of Hedeby becomes a “locked room” when its only exit to the mainland—a bridge—is cut off because of a trafﬁc accident. Another approach is to examine speciﬁc historical events or phenomena through the prism of the crime genre’s conventions, particularly its focus on legality and justice. One such example is the study of crime novels that engage with “the National Socialist past and its legacy in the postwar era” conducted by British scholar Katharina Hall (288). In this study, Hall has identiﬁed more than 150 transnational crime novels, including English, German, Czech, Polish, and Canadian, which treat this topic. For Hall, the study of an historical event or period such as National Socialist rule in Germany and Europe through crime ﬁction from writers of different backgrounds and nationalities can provide “illuminating depictions of policing” and “encourage readers, via the ﬁgure of the Nazi detective, to think critically about issues of justice, moral agency, and guilt” (3 11 ).
Closely related to Hall’s research is the notion of transitional justice in postdictatorial societies. In recent years, there has been a slew of crime novels from countries that had suffered repression under dictatorships, including Eduardo Sacheri’s The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina), Andrés Trapiello’s Los amigos del crimen perfecto (The Friends of the Perfect Crime, Spain), Purge (Estonia) by Estonian-language Finnish writer Soﬁ Oksanen, and Ber nard Schlink and Walter Popp’s Gerhard Self series (Germany). A world- literature analysis of these novels would offer insights into the multiple ways in which writers use the genre to position past actions within the legal framework, which is the basis of the crime genre. In this way, such novels do not just seek to overcome institutionalized disremembering by recovering repressed memories; they are also an attempt to focus attention on historical justice from a legal point of v iew. From tentative beginnings in the early part of the twentieth century, but particularly from the 1970s onward, women writers have penned crime novels featuring women detectives—whether amateur, professional, or police—as a means of exploring issues related to women’s oppression such as physical and psychological abuse, rape, prostitution, institutional and social discrimination, and female agency. By adopting a world-literature approach that focuses on the representation of female characters as victims, criminals, detectives, and other roles in different cultures and societies, crime ﬁction can tell us much about how the issues facing women and how their role in society are v iewed. Similar world- literature approaches can be applied to the construction of race, homosexuality, class, and ethnicit y across cultures and countries. Finally, a world-literature approach could proﬁtably study the reception of particular novels in different parts of the world. Why are some novels international successes and others are not? What is it in Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy that resonates across languages and cultures? How have critics, writers, and readers responded to works by Conan Doyle, Christie, Hammett, and Spillane? The study of the reception of particular texts, such as that undertaken by Margrit Schreier, can proﬁtably draw on readers’ reviews at booksellers’ sites, fan sites, and blogs to gain insights into how novels travel beyond their home culture. Translator Edith Grossman describes national literature as “a narrowing, conﬁning concept based on the distinction between native and foreign” ( 17). To overcome this strait jacketing, she argues for literary translation because “[t]ranslation asserts the possibility of a coherent, uniﬁed experience of literature in the world’s multiplicity of languages” while, at the same time, celebrating “the differences among languages and the many varieties of human experience and perception they can express” ( 17). Grossman does not advocate abandoning entirely the study of national traditions; she recognizes that national literature “is certainly a valid and useful differentiation in some areas and under certain circumstances” (17). As Worthington argues, crime ﬁction is tied to how any one culture or society constructs and represents crime. Although this feature fundamentally links crime ﬁction to a speciﬁc place, applying Grossman’s idea to the study of world crime ﬁction leads to the conclusion that the study of crime novels in the original or in translation across national traditions, rather than within them, can reap new insights into the relationship between particular communities and transgression. A world-literature approach thus has the potential to develop new interpretations and a more nuanced understanding of this truly global genre. Keywords: crime ﬁction, international literature, world literature
NOTES 1. Further research is required to determine whether crime-ﬁction criticism produced in languages other than English follows the nationally bounded tradition discussed later or whether there is a greater attempt to understand crime ﬁction in its global context. 2. Two further studies that conﬁrm this trend are Gill Plain’s Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction: Gender, Sexuality and the Body and John Scaggs’s Crime Fiction. Despite their general titles, Plain only examines English-language works, whereas Scaggs’s work contains a smattering of references to French works and a discussion of Umberto Eco’s Il nome della rossa (publ. as The Name of the Rose, 1980). 3. Studies of nonmainstream Anglo-American ﬁction works include monographs on Jewish (Roth), African American (Pepper; Soitos; Gifford) and Native American (Browne; Rodriguez) crime ﬁction. This list is limited to works written in English. It therefore does not take into account the vast body of research on the detective novel conducted by scholars who publish i n languages other than English. 4. An exception to this is Alistair Rolls and Deborah Walker’s French and American Noir: Dark Crossings (2009). 5. Translations from the Spanish are by the author. 6. The use of English pseudonyms was also common in Italian crime ﬁction until the 1990s, according to Gabriella Turnaturi (55). 7. Although the examples cited demonstrate the inﬂuence of Anglo-American models on non– Anglophone crime writers, such inﬂuence does not always come from the United States and Britain. For example, Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri shows his esteem for Spanish author Manuel Vázquez Montalbán by naming the protagonist of his series Salvo Montalbano. 8. This is also the case with so-called European crime-ﬁction studies such as Crime Scenes: Detective Narratives in European Culture Since 1945 (2000), edited by Anne Mullen and Emer O’Beirne, which contains only one article that exami nes ﬁction in more than one country. 9. Pioneers in this ﬁeld include geographer George Demko, who has taught and written extensively about the evolution of crime ﬁction around the world, and Nina King and Robin W. Winks, whose Crimes of the Scene (1997) is an armchair travel guide to crime ﬁction across the globe.
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