Critical Studies of Popular Texts [CRN 27351]

Discipline: English
Instructor: Patel
Credits: 3
Day: A
Start: 12:10
End: 13:30
Field Work: Day 1 | January 12, 2017 | Hawaii, United States
Prerequisites: One (1) college composition course Download Syllabus

This course explores the crime fiction genre and prominent crime writers from various Asian and African countries in the 20th and 21st centuries. Specifically, the class will consider the historical, cultural and political shifts occurring in crime fiction through its many culturally variant trajectories. By reading crime narratives from each port country, students will compare and contrast genre conventions in order to best understand how the socio-political and cultural climates illuminate and inform these texts.

Students will be asked to think critically about central concepts in the genre, such as truth, justice, motive, criminality, victim and villain. How do nationally diverse authors redefine these terms? How do their articulations of the genre display the country’s problems? Why do authors differ in their use of crime tropes? How might the genre be used to expose/hide/mirror societal conflicts? Students will answer these questions by reading narratives and experiencing their settings first hand.

Field Work

Country: Hawaii, United States
Day: 1
Date: January 12, 2017

For this field class, students will begin the day with historical discussions about the sites we will visit in relation to Kneubuhl’s novel. Then, the class will travel to 2 different locations of criminality mentioned in the novel (The Bishop Museum and Hula Lessons). In each location, students will be asked to investigate the contexts that generated the literary representation of the site with relation to the crime genre. Students will compare and contrast the literary description of a specific site to its modern form in order to identify the liberties the writer has taken to represent Hawaiian culture, crime, and history. This kind of analysis will lead to interpretations about the writer’s literary, historical, and socio-political priorities. It will also illuminate unique ways the writer incorporates culture into the genre of crime fiction. Questions to consider: How does the author use Hawaiian culture to demonstrate motive, criminality, or justice in the novel? Why might the author highlight specific aspects of a site to generate sympathies for a victim or criminal? What role does the site play in the generation of a crime narrative? In each location, students will take notes about the similarities and differences they notice for their formal field class paper assignment. They will be asked to speak with one local, throughout the day, to get a third perspective on the location of their choice. Following the field class, students will write a formal compare and contrast paper that asks them to interrogate the novel’s depictions of Hawaiian culture and life within the context of crime.

Learning Objectives:
1. Compare modern day cities to their literary versions in order to situate literature in its historical, socio-political, and cultural contexts.
2. Identify the local ideologies and influences that led to specific literary conventions.
3. Develop an appreciation for the formal elements of crime fiction and its variations
4. Practice critical thinking skills to sharpen observational and analytical modes of inquiry.