Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. M. Aziz
Crime and detective fiction are modern genres that cannot be considered as twentieth-century manifestations of an earlier genre. Quite simply, there is no evidence of a sustained development of a genre primarily concerned with the criminal or detective in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The criminal and the detective develop little in this period as characters interpreted according to previous writers' treatment of them. They appear as important characters in major stages of the novel's development, such as the picaresque, social and sensation novels, primarily as a means of illustrating predominant themes evident in the novel: the picaresque novel's criticism of the whole of society, the social novel's criticism of specific problems in the judicial system and society, and the sensation novel's portrayal of the thrilling and abnormal.
As these critical and thematic concerns evolved in the development of the novel, the characters of the criminal and the detective also evolved. The evolution of both characters can be categorized in a succession of five stages that represent the predominant themes with which they are associated in considering literary trends in the eighteenth and nineteenth-century novel: the picaresque, the judicial, the social, the domestic and the deviant stage of their literary evolution. In tracing this evolution, the detective is considered as part of the literary evolution of the criminal because he evolves in a manner similar to that of the criminal, but, chronologically, his evolution is later than that of the criminal.
The stages of this evolution are best represented by novels that give an important place to the criminal or detective and by novelists who displayed a significant interest in the criminal or detective, such as Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, William Godwin, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Charles Dickens, and Wilkie Collins. An examination of these novelists, and other writers, and their works illustrates a reduction in the thematic importance of the criminal in the course of the five stages of his evolution: he evolves from being a critic of society, to being merely a victim who is representative of society's problems, and, finally, to being a deviant who neither criticizes nor represents society. Only at this final stage, when presented as having little or no relationship to the judicial system and society, could the criminal and the detective warrant genres of their own in which they are not treated as part of a critical concern or a literary trend, but as characters of interest in and for themselves. They became important for the pleasure they gave rather than for the critical insights they offered; hence, modern crime and detective fiction was born.
Carleton, Chris Robert, "Pistol Eloquence: The Literary Evolution of the Criminal and Detective in the Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century British Novel and Its Contribution to the Advent of Modern Crime and Detective Fiction" (1995). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1718.