Alan Mattli holds a BA in English Literature and Linguistics, Film Studies, and Swiss History as well as an MA in English Literature and Linguistics and Film Studies, both from the University of Zurich. He is currently enrolled in the Doctoral Program in English and American Literary Studies, developing his MA thesis, “Anything for the Truth.” Detective Fiction and Reality from Poe to Postmodernism, into a doctoral thesis. His research, supervised by Prof. Dr. Martin Heusser, focuses on the detective genre and its changing conceptions of reality and fixed social hierarchies over time.
PhD Project: The Realities of Detective Fiction, from Poe to Postmodernism
One of postmodern literature’s fundamental characteristics is a distinct reluctance to accept the existence of an objective reality, a notion of truth shared by everyone. This fragmentation of the old master-narratives – the clear authority of science, religion, capitalism, and the like – presents a particular challenge to the detective genre, as its original format is wholly dependent on events and their accurate, unequivocal reconstructions by a detective figure. According to Franco Moretti, these classic detectives, employed by writers like Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and Arthur Conan Doyle, are dedicated to “reunifying causality and objectivity” and, in doing so, to “perpetuating the existing order”. The postmodern detective, on the other hand, is a much more subversive figure: while people like Thomas Pynchon and Paul Auster use the genre to undermine the idea of an objective reality itself, the detective protagonists of Chester Himes and Marcia Muller, among others, challenge the genre’s inherent white male normativity. Based on a selection of genre texts from the Victorian era, the interwar ‘Golden Age of Detective Fiction,’ and the postmodern era, my dissertation seeks to chronicle and analyse this development of the genre in general and of the detective figure in particular, who is read as an evolving representative of popular conceptions of reality and established master-narratives.
Detective fiction, postmodernism, metafiction, film, intersectional feminism, cultural theory, American and British literature, epistemology, ontology.