A Case of Identity:
The Detective and the
Myth of Fingerprints




Prof. Shaya: gshaya@wooster.edu

First Year Seminar in Critical Inquiry  ~  Fall 2002

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 to 10:50, in Kauke 104

Class Listserv: holmes-net@wooster.edu



Fri 8/23            Advising Appointment

The College of Wooster, Catalogue, 2002-3
pp. 5-22
skim at least one department’s requirements on pp. 24-166
skim pp. 166-178

       The College of Wooster, Course Schedule, read/skim all


COME with ideas about what you’d like to major in and at least eight courses with open spots that look interesting to you

WEEK 1—Aug. 27 & 29

Tu                   Introduction to The College of Wooster and to First Year Seminar

The College of Wooster, Catalogue, 2002-3, skim p. 195 (“Expenses”)

The College of Wooster. The Scot's Key, 2002-2003
pp. 5-14 (“Academic Information”)
pp. 55-58 (“Code of Academic Integrity”)
skim pp. 59-80 (“Code of Social Responsibility”)

Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Case of Identity”



Introduction to Wooster and the First Year Seminar.  What am I doing in college?  What’s the liberal arts education about?  (Short answer: asking intelligent questions). 

How will this class work?  Groundrules.  What do I need to do to succeed?

Why read detective fiction?  What’s up with identity?  What is identity anyway (another way of asking, who are you)?

How do we go about interpreting literature, or anything for that matter?

Tu morn*        Opening Convocation—McGaw Chapel, 11 am

Th                   Oedipus and the Origins of The Detective Tale

Sophocles, “Oedipus the King” in Sophocles I

Also BRING:  Doyle, “A Case of Identity”


IN CLASS: 10 Minute Writing Workshop—“How to Write the Short Essay”

Handouts on writing, stylesheet



Is Oedipus a detective?  What precisely does he discover?  What are the clues that lead him to understand what has happened in his past?  Why is this story so resonant that 2500 years later people are still reading it, still talking about Oedipus?  Compare Sophocles’ tale to that of Doyle’s.

How does Holmes know so much about people?  What is at stake in this case?  How does Holmes solve it?  What are the questions of identity involved in “A Case of Identity”?

Without doing outside research—that is, based upon these two stories themselves—how do you think these two tales reflect their time and place (ancient Greece and late Victorian London)?

WEEK 2—Sept 3 & 5

Mon eve†       ** EXERCISE #1 DUE under the door of my office by 8 pm

LENGTH:  2-3 pages, double spaced

TOPIC:  What are the “rules” of detective fiction, as you read them in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Case of Identity”?  Put another way, how does Sherlock Holmes work?

Tu                   Library Workshop, An Introduction to Research—Library Seminar Room (TBA)

Hacker, “Conducting Research,” from “Map out a search strategy” to “Read with an open mind and a critical eye” (including “Evaluating web sources”), pp. 53-72

Tu morn*        Extended Orientation I: Academic Resources—McGaw Chapel, 11 am

Th                   Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841)

Howard Haycraft on Poe, from “Murder for Pleasure” (1941) in Art of the Mystery Story

Hacker, pp. TBA


DISCUSS:  Why does Poe prefer checkers to chess?  And more.  Come up with a couple of your own questions for discussion and passages in Poe you’d like to discuss.



Th eve*           Art Spiegelman, "Comix 101"—McGaw Chapel, 7:30 pm (REQUIRED)

WEEK 3—Sept 10 & 12

Mon†              ** PAPER #1 (on Poe) DUE under the door of my office by 6 pm

Details TBA

Tu                   Dickens on the Detectives of Scotland Yard

Charles Dickens, “Detective Police”

Charles Dickens, “Three ‘Detective’ Anecdotes”

Robin Woods, “‘His Appearance is Against Him’: The Emergence of the Detective,” in Haycraft, The Cunning Craft

Tu*                  Extended Orientation II:  The Code of Academic Integrity and Code of Social Responsibility—McGaw Chapel, 11am

Th                   Detectives and Detective Stories: Some Background and Interpretation

H. Douglas Thomson, “Masters of Mystery” (1931) in Art of the Mystery Story

Ronald Thomas, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science, “The Lie Detector and the Thinking Machine,” pp. 21–39.

Ronald Thomas, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science, “The Unequal Voice in ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’,” pp. 40–56.

WEEK 4—Sept 17 & 19

Mon†              ** EXERCISE #2 (analyze an argument) DUE under the door of my office by 8 pm

Details TBA

Tu                   Writing Day: What is Good Writing?
And Introduction to Sherlock Holmes

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

Hacker, pp. TBA

Start Studies in Scarlet

Th                   The Invention of Sherlock Holmes, the Mystery and the Romance

Arthur Conan Doyle, Studies in Scarlet

WEEK 5—Sept 24 & 26

Mon†              ** PAPER #2 (revealing comparison of two works) DUE under the door of my office by 7:30 pm

Details TBA

Mon*              EVENING FILM:  “Memento”

Kauke 101, 8 pm

Tu                   Memento, A Case of Mistaken Identity?

Th                   A Lesson in Interpretation: The Meanings of Detection

Michel Foucault on the demise of crime fiction, in Discipline and Punish, c. p. 69

Elliot Gilbert, “The Detective as Metaphor in the Nineteenth Century,” (orig. 1967) in The Mystery Writer’s Art (Bowling Green U. Popular Press, 1970)

** FAMILY WEEKEND.  Sept. 27-29 **

WEEK 6—Oct 1 & 3

Tu                   The Double Psyche of Modern Life, or “I Kill and I Hide”

Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Th                   The Enigmatic Figure of the Detective

Elliot Gilbert, “The Enigma of the Detective in the Nineteenth Century”

Fri†                  ** EXERCISE #3 (close analysis of a passage from Stevenson) DUE under the door of my office by 6 pm

WEEK 7—Oct 8 & 10

Tu                   Fantasies of Detection, The Myth of Fingerprints

Ronald Thomas, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science, “The Mug Shot and the Magnifying Glass,” pp. 111–130.

Ronald Thomas, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science, “The Fingerprint and the Map of Crime,” pp. 201–219.

Tu*                  WOOSTER FORUM—McGaw Chapel 7:30 pm (REQUIRED)


Th                   True Crime: Ashton-Wolfe, An Englishman in Paris

Ashton-Wolfe, Warped in the Making, selections

** FALL BREAK, Oct. 12-15 **

WEEK 8—Oct 17

Th                   Library and Writing Workshop

Hacker, pp. TBA

Fri†                  ** PAPER #3 (revision of another student’s paper) DUE under my office door by 8 pm

WEEK 9—Oct 22 & 24

Tu                   The Hard-Boiled “Continental Op” 1

Raymond Chandler, “The Simple Art of Murder” (1944) in Art of the Mystery Story

Dashiell Hammett, “From the Memoirs of a Private Detective” (1923) in Art of the Mystery Story

Dashiell Hammett, The Dain Curse, part 1

Hacker, pp. TBA

Th                   The Hard-Boiled “Continental Op” 2

Finish Dashiell Hammett, The Dain Curse

** HOMECOMING WEEKEND.  Oct. 25-27 **

WEEK 10—Oct. 29 & 31

Tu                   The Murder of Roger Akroyd

Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Akroyd

Th                   Think Again If You Think You Know Who Did It

S.S. Van Dine, “Twenty Rules for Writing Detective Stories” (1928) in Art of the Mystery Story

Pierre Bayard, Who Killed Roger Akroyd, pp. Vii-xii, 3-42.  check  (Introduction)

And Bayard, selected pages (to be assigned)


IN CLASS:  Presentations on Bayard

Fri†                  ** EXERCISE #4 (imitate a writer’s style) DUE under my office door by 8 pm

WEEK 11—Nov 5 & 7

Tu                  Field Trip to Richfield Office of Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation

Short reading TBA

Wed†              ** PAPER #4 (on Christie and Bayard) DUE under my office door by 7:30 pm

Wed*              EVENING FILM—“Monsieur Hire”

Kauke 101, 8 pm

Th                   Monsieur Hire, or The Psychology of Crime and Innocence

Georges Simenon, “Monsieur Hire,” first few pages

WEEK 12—Nov 12 & 14

Tu                   Race in the Postwar City. 1

Start Walter Moseley, Devil in the Blue Dress

Tu†                 ** EXERCISE #5 (analyzing a film scene) DUE under the door of my office by 8 pm

Th                   Race in the Postwar City. 2

Finish Walter Moseley, Devil in the Blue Dress

Marilyn Wesley, “Power and Knowledge in Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress” African American Review vol. 35, no. 1 (2001)

WEEK 13—Nov 19 & 21

Tu                   Library and Writing Workshop

Hacker, pp. TBA

Th                   IN CLASS FILM—“Blade Runner”

Fri†                  ** PAPER #5 (revision) DUE under the door of my office by midnight

WEEK 14—Nov 26

Tu                   Discuss Bladerunner
and Postmodern Noir, or How to Read a Difficult Work of Interpretation

Slovoj Zizek, “‘The Thing that Thinks’: The Kantian Background of the Noir Subject”in Shades of Noir: A Reader (Verso, 1993)

But watch Angel Heart or Blade Runner first.  Give them questions, a guide (Kant, Lacan, the Other… at least a dozen words), a picture from Magritte (219).  Ok, a hard reading.  What, they will ask is the “‘classical episteme’, the epistemological field regulated by the problematic of representations…”  File it under, How to Read the Apparently Unfathomable.

** THANKSGIVING RECESS – Nov. 27 to Dec. 1 **

WEEK 15—Dec 3 & 5

Tu                   Taking Stock

Reading TBA

Th                   Summing Up


12/7–9             Reading Days

12/10               ** TAKE-HOME FINAL EXAMINATION DUE** by 9am under the door of my office