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French Crime Fiction

Module Code: FR405
Module Name: French Crime Fiction
Module Credits: 15

This module examines crime fiction from the postwar period to the present day. We will be looking at the evolution of a highly codified genre which has gradually gained literary respectability. In our readings we pay particular attention to the detective figure who has progressively shed his – more often than her - superhero attributes to become, as Raymond Chandler put it, ‘the common man and yet an unusual one’. We also assess some of the major stages in the development of the genre: the advent of l’inspecteur Maigret (1930s), the influence of the American hard-boiled detective, the creation of the Série noire (1940s), the birth of the ‘polar’ (1970s), and the emergence of female writers such as Fred Vargas, Brigitte Aubert, and Maud Tabachnik.

Module Outline

  • This module will examine crime fiction from the postwar period to the present day.
  • We will be looking at the evolution of a highly codified genre which has gradually gained literary respectability.
  • In our readings we will pay particular attention to the detective figure who has progressively shed his – more often than her - superhero attributes to become, as Raymond Chandler put it, ‘the common man and yet an unusual one’.
  • We will also assess some of the major stages in the development of the genre: the advent of l’inspecteur Maigret (1930s), the influence of the American hard-boiled detective, the creation of the Série noire (1940s) and the birth of the ‘polar’ (1970s).
  • Other relevant themes will be discussed: the genre’s ability to establish a critical dialogue with French history, to critique social order, to capture the energy of urban youth culture, to challenge its traditional codes or to reflect (notably through the use of parody and pastiche) upon its narrative habits.

Reading List

  • Léo Malet, Brouillard au pont de Tolbiac (1956)

  • Boileau et Narcejac, Sueurs froides (1954)
  • Didier Daeninckx, Meurtres pour mémoire (1981)
  • Fred Vargas, Pars vite et reviens tard (2001)