ENGL252-23S1 (C) Semester One 2023

Crime Stories

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 20 February 2023
End Date: Sunday, 25 June 2023
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 5 March 2023
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 14 May 2023


The course addresses the usefulness and range of the crime genre as an appropriate focus for the acquisition of the skills (in research, critical analysis, and written expression) peculiar to English studies, as well as a form of social and political critique. It will particularly concentrate on the last two centuries of the representations of crime, detection, confession, and punishments, assaying major trends and preoccupations present in a range of texts and theories. Within a general contextual examination of engagements between these facets, the development of genre forms and concerns will be considered, especially because the genre often speculates the fears and desires of its time in ways that likewise shape wider perceptions of crime and punishment. Students will be expected to read a range of key material, including a small selection of novels, some short fiction, theoretical writings and visual texts that should represent differences and similarities in representation and subject choice that writers and directors negotiate.

The course will proceed through an examination of postulations of crime and punishment, and of crimes that go “unpunished”, starting with the focus on these subjects within modernity represented in literature of the Nineteenth Century onwards.  We will look at early crime writers such as Poe and Conan Doyle, and later Golden Age detective fiction by writers like Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh; we’ll also look at “noir” and “hard-boiled” detective fiction stories, including film adaptation, considering possible “celebrations” of crime, the rise of detective fiction and new subjects of “crime” (including “Eco-Crime Fiction” [Jane Taylor]) alongside the cultural and social concerns of the time (changing social anxieties about criminality and institutions of policing, justice and penal reform).  Further coverage in the course will include focus on the place of recent “confessional” writing: looking at the modern psychological confession novel (Patricia Highsmith), “true crime” confessional (Truman Capote and others), and a selection of prison notes describing the experience of writers imprisoned for political dissent, (including Aleksander Solzhenitsyn). A significant further focus will be on the popular representation of crime in other media, including  TV crime shows, “Reality TV” crime shows, and crime documentaries.

This course can be used towards an English major or minor. BA students who major in English would normally take at least two 100-level 15 point ENGL courses (which must include at least one of the following: ENGL117, ENGL102 or ENGL103), at least three 200-level 15 point ENGL courses, and at least two 300-level 30 point ENGL courses. Please see the BA regulations  or a student advisor for more information.

Learning Outcomes

  • In this course you will learn:
  • skills in textual and contextual reading and writing and to apply critical reasoning to literary engagements with crime and punishment;
  • to read a selection of different literary genres from different historical periods, and be able to recognise choices of style and preoccupation of writers;
  • awareness of the impact of the particular historical and cultural context on the form and function of various modes of cultural production; and
  • about the role of detection and punitive regimes, and the assumed benefits and dangers of these regimes to society as represented in literature.


Any 15 points at 100 level from CULT or ENGL, or
any 60 points at 100 level from the Schedule V of the BA.


Equivalent Courses

Course Coordinator

Daniel Bedggood


Annie Potts , Henrietta Mondry and Paul Millar


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Essay One 30% 1,500-2,000 words
Essay Two 30% 1,500-2,000 words
Take-home test 40%

Textbooks / Resources

Set Texts:
• Truman Capote, 'In Cold Blood';
• Ann Turner, 'Out of the Ice';
• Patricia Highsmith, 'The Talented Mr Ripley';
• Aleksander Solzhenitsyn, 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

Prepared course readings will also be available via Learn.

(Image: "He seized Holmes by the throat" by Sidney Paget, 1893.)

Course links

Library portal

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $821.00

International fee $3,750.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

Minimum enrolments

This course will not be offered if fewer than 25 people apply to enrol.

For further information see Humanities .

All ENGL252 Occurrences

  • ENGL252-23S1 (C) Semester One 2023