Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science

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This is the first book about the relationship between the development of forensic science in the nineteenth century and the invention of the new literary genre of detective fiction in Britain and America. Ronald R. Thomas examines the criminal body as a site of interpretation and enforcement in a wide range of fictional examples, from Poe, Dickens and Hawthorne through Twain and Conan Doyle to Hammett, Chandler and Christie. He is especially concerned with the authority the literary detective manages to secure through the "devices" - fingerprinting, photography, lie detectors - with which he discovers the truth and establishes his expertise, and the way in which those devices relate to broader questions of cultural authority at decisive moments in the history of the genre. This is an interdisciplinary project, framing readings of literary texts with an analysis of contemporaneous developments in criminology, the rules of evidence, and modern scientific accounts of identity.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a persuasive, original and stimulating work that more than achieves its most important goals." Alison Winter, Times Literary Supplement

"The first study of the relationship between the creation of the detective story in the 19th century and the development of forensic science, this book argues that the new science not only gave the detective figure the authority to pursue his profession but also represented a broader cultural authority of the time." Choice

"I can summarize his scholarly, but by no means dry or pedantic, book in his own words: "While the narratives of writers like Poe, Dickens and Conan Doyle often reflected and popularized contemporary scientific theories of law enforcement, the detective stories they wrote also sometimes anticipated actual procedures," so that it was almost "commonplace for early criminologists to attribute inspiration for their theories to the methods of a Sherlock Holmes or an Auguste Dupin."" John Linsenmeyer

"Thomas's study seems to me one of the best of the books on mystery literture pubished in the past decade...Thomas relates the development of detective fiction to a substantial body of clearly relevant social and cultural material conneted with the rise of forensic science...deeply researched and brilliantly argued treatment of the detective genre." American Literature

"In this decisive, carefully organized study, Thomas's close and provocative reading of a wide variety of fiction expose the limitations, often the dangers, of reliance on forensic science to interpret the behavior of human beings, either as a group or as individuaLs." English Literature in Transition 2002

"I have noticed with pleasure that Ronald Thomas's excellent book Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science was discovered by other critics immediately upon its publication...Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science is a really full book. Thoams has read widely and well in literature and criminology...Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science is a rich and dense text with implicarions for contemporary forensic science" South Central Review

"Offers a well-told and well-illustrated history." Studies in English Literature

"Thomas subject is rich and varied" Albion

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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
1 The devices of truth 1
2 The lie detector and the thinking machine 21
3 The unequal voice in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" 40
4 The letter of the law in The Woman in White 57
5 The criminal type in "A Case of Identity" 75
6 The voice of America in Red Harvest 91
7 The mug shot and the magnifying glass 111
8 Photographic memories in Bleak House 131
9 Double exposures in The House of the Seven Gables 150
10 Negative images in "A Scandal in Bohemia" 167
11 Empty cameras in The Big Sleep and Farewell, My Lovely 181
12 The fingerprint and the map of crime 201
13 Foreign bodies in A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four 220
14 Accusing hands in Pudd'nhead Wilson 240
15 International plots in The Maltese Falcon and Murk on the Orient Express 257
16 Missing persons and secret agents 276
Notes 291
Selected works for further reading 323
Index 335
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