English 262b
P. Gaffney
F 1:30-4

American Moderns: Hardboiled Detective Fiction and Film Noir

From Hammett to Himes, The Big Sleep to The Big Lebowski, hardboiled and noir have become a staple of popular culture, winning the collective imagination with fast-paced narratives, colorful language, shifty characters, and unflinching look at life (and death) in urban America. In this course, we will begin by considering the techniques and concerns that characterize the early writers of this genre, with an aim to understanding the emergence of new attitudes in the first half of the 20th century towards knowledge, power, identity and desire, as well as new technologies and regulations that influenced the production of print media and film. We will then proceed to investigate changes in hardboiled fiction and film noir after WWII which would result in a broader range of styles, strategies, questions and concerns. Readings include works by Dashiell Hammett, W. R. Burnett, Raymond Carver, Chester Himes, Dorothy Hughes, Patricia Highsmith, Walter Mosley and Paco Ignacio Taibo. Screenings may include such films as Detour, The Big Sleep, The Lady in the Lake, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Brick and The Big Lebowski. There will also be short assigned texts on film and literary theory.

Required Texts*
Dashiell Hammett, Red Harvest (1929)
W. R. Burnett, Little Caesar (1929)
James Cain, The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)
Raymond Chandler , The Big Sleep (1939)
Dorothy Hughes, The Blackbirder (1943)
Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
Chester Himes, A Rage in Harlem (1957) or Cotton Comes to Harlem (1965)
Elmore Leonard, The Big Bounce (1969)
James Elroy, The Black Dahlia (1987)
Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990)
Paco Ignacio Taibo, The Uncomfortable Dead (2005)
* All texts are available at the Campus Center Bookstore, with the exception of short theoretical texts, which will be announced in class and posted to Blackboard on a week-to-week basis (in the “Readings” section of Blackboard site)

In-class work:
Preparation for & participation in discussions
In-class presentation
Attendance to all classes (see attendance policy below)
Homework / written work:
Approx. 200 pages of reading (both fiction and theory) + 1 feature-length film per week
In-class presentation
Short Essay (1000_1250 words) on film
Final Essay (2000_2250 words) on book