The Paradigmatic Gesture
The detective fiction genre has developed in a number of different ways in the century and a half since Edgar Allan Poe wrote the first detective stories for the popular press of the 1840s. "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" ( 1841), published in Graham's Magazine, introduced the brilliant amateur detective Dupin. Since then, detective fiction has expanded in variety and scope, undergoing a number of transformations in the process. Detective genre conventions now command multimedia attention and always appeal to a large audience. Although it remains one of the most popular forms of fiction published in the United States, the detective story has only recently begun to receive the academic and critical attention it deserves.
A large percentage of all books published each year in the United States are in the detective field. Julian Symons claims that the detective genre is "almost certainly more widely read than any other class of fiction in the United States [and] the United Kingdom" (17), and authors like Agatha Christie and Mickey Spillane have published millions of books in various editions.1 Numerous regional popular culture conventions occur yearly in all sectors of the country, and as part of the larger popular culture field, detective fiction categories are represented by large contingents not only at the conventions but in the pages of journals devoted to serious study of popular culture.
The detective genre has proven to be of interest to scholars and academics. Dennis Porter, professor of French critical theory at the University of Massachusetts, has written one of the best structural in critiques of detective fiction, The Pursuit of Crime: Art and Ideology in Detective Fiction ( 1981). Umberto Eco, an Italian professor of linguistics, has written extensively on detective fiction as well as writ-