Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism

Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism

Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism

Detecting Texts: The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism

Synopsis

Although readers of detective fiction ordinarily expect to learn the mystery's solution at the end, there is another kind of detective story -- whose history encompasses writers as diverse as Poe, Borges, Robbe-Grillet, Auster, and Stephen King -- that ends with a question rather than an answer. The detective not only fails to solve the crime, but also confronts insoluble mysteries of interpretation and identity. As the contributors to Detecting Texts contend, such stories belong to a distinct genre, the "metaphysical detective story", in which the detective hero's inability to interpret the mystery inevitably casts doubt on the reader's similar attempt to make sense of the text and the world.

Excerpt

Detecting Texts first began as a panel at the 1990 Modern Language Association convention, chaired by Susan Elizabeth Sweeney and entitled “Metaphysical Detective Stories.” Several years later, we are delighted to present this volume of essays as that panel’s long-awaited dénouement.

Beth would like to dedicate her work on Detecting Texts to four people who have died since this project began: her friend, critic and detective novelist Richard H. Rodino (coauthor of the Easy Barnes mysteries), who had an important role in the book’s early stages; her father and mother, Daniel J. Sweeney and Dorothy Daub Sweeney; and especially her beloved sister, D. J. Sweeney Kimball, who taught her where the meaning is. Beth also wishes to thank, for their kindness, generosity, and encouragement, her husband, Michael Chapman; her friends and colleagues, especially Shirley Adams, Laurie Brown, Tina Chen, Laurence Enjolras, Katharina Gerstenberger, Richard Matlak, Jack O’Connell, Kay O’Connor, Carol Singley, and Sarah Stanbury; and her students in “Detective Fiction,” “Borges and Nabokov,” “The American Detective Story,” and “The Metaphysical Detective Story” at Holy Cross College.

Pat would like to thank her several support teams: in Carmel, Chris, Ann, Anne, and Dennis; in Vancouver, Cheryl, James, Ryszard, and Michele; in Toronto, Helga, David, Patrick, and Norma. And particularly, also, those colleges and persons who lent much needed and treasured study space: Rick Asals at New College, Jay Macpherson at Victoria, Colin Visser and Lise-Lone Marker at University College, and Brian Corman at 7 KCC. Special thanks to Ingrid Harder for computerizing the genealogy, thereby making many a crooked line straight. She dedicates her share of this book to the memory of her parents, who made it all possible: her father, who introduced her to Chesterton, Doyle, H. G. Wells, and the life of the mind, and her mother, a Friend, in the Josephine Tey mode, of Richard the Third. We are both grateful to our contributors for their fine essays, as well as for their patience during the process of bringing this volume into print. Thanks, too, to Jerry Singer-

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