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Crime Fiction 17

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English (Arts)
ENGL 324
Thomas Heise

March 10 - Oscar: immorality, weak infrastructure, lack of impulse control, high tolerance of psychopathy - Himes takes lists of bad qualities and twists them and makes them humorous - post-modernism: similarities between Himes and Auster = a post-modern concern with identity - Himes = 1969 (very early in post-modernism) not exactly postmodern, though City of Glass (1985) - Auster makes a point of thinking about the instability of identity - the self is not a coherent whole - makes a point thematically, where Himes makes it formally (shifting of characters, shifting of the red fez) - in order to make a character memorable, you'll give them a distinct aspect - the red fez shifts from one character to another, so there's a slipperiness of identity - what someone looks like is not an indicator of who they really are (multiple layers of artifice) - depravity and sexual deviancy and drug use and women as sex-objects > these caricatures are artifice themselves, and not representative of the self - if there /is/ a self in Himes, it's well-hidden - link of the murder of Berga Torn and the murder of Lily Carver: what is the deep, underlying logic that holds them together? - Himes' novel: how are the house at the beginning and the riot at the end linked? - what are other things going on in the culture at this time - Auster: born in NY, moved to France and started writing poetry. returned to the US after four years, he started publishing reviews - he wrote COG in 85 and then finished the NY trilogy in 87 - Quinn is like a detective in that he is a voyeur who watches life from a distance. - he also writes detective novels - 7 "like most people, Quinn knew almost nothing about crime. he had never murdered anyone, and had never stolen anything... he didn't consider this to be a handicap...he was interested in the relation of his novel to other stories" - he likes that his detective novels are speaking to other novels - both Auster's novel and Quinn's novels have no relationship to crime. he's not interested in communicating to us a sense of realism (reasoning, the apprehension, the prosecution) - his references are not to the real world but to other texts - how language references other languages as opposed to referencing the real world - even before he became William Wilson (a character from Poe), he had become a reader of mystery novels - they can be crappy writing, as long as they are mysteries, though he's a snob in everything else - how is that detail that I recognized related to that other detail that I recognized? - does everything have some level of interconnectedness? if you believe this, you'll go insane - it doesn't seem like Quinn is a paranoid thinker, but you can see how his sensibilities give rise to this notion - everything is a part of a pattern, and we're trying to figure out the pattern - everything is connected to the mafia in some way or another - when Pat reads to Hammer the list of 20 pages of offenses by the Mafia, they're treated as a part of a conspiratorial web, proving that their tentacles touch every part of like - this paranoid thinking is what leads to the moment of exposition by the detective - everything /does/ connect - when Quinn says "it all comes together in a circumference...and no circumference can be drawn until the book reaches its end" - when the novel is over, you can draw a conclusion, though this novel does not provide us with the kind of formal conclusion that he seems to prize - you never find out who the narrator is, even after reading the trilogy - how can you trust anything when it's all come from a first speaker and we don't know who it is - other novels have suggested that the closure has been there formally, but not morally (Red Harvest: Personville afterwards? Big Sleep: Eddie Mars?) - this novel is so much about how language works, and it has inverted (/changed) the question of the whodunnit in to "who am I?" - who is our protagonist? - linguistic relationship between things - we can think about beginning with the idea that the author is already dead. Quinn isn't dead, technically, but he's completely withdrawn from the outside world - his only contact with the outside world is through his detective novels, and they're written under a pseudonym - in effect, he really is dead - Auster makes a lot of "I" and "(private)eye" homonyms. - I: its status in relation to identity is much more problematic in its relationship to identity - Auster and Quinn suggest: 8 - "the detective is one who listens...private eye. the word held...he had, of course, long ago, stopped thinking of himself as real" - as a detective, you're out gathering information. the "private eye" thing bugs him - "I" holds a place for us in our speech - in linguistics, "I" is something that we inhabit. when we make a sentence, we refer to ourselves, but anyone can fill the same place - sign = signifier/signified (Sausseure) - each word has two parts to it, a signifier (the letters and the sound... has a material component to it) and a signified (it refers to a concept) - when you say the word "chair," you're referring to the idea of a chair, though it may bring the image of a particular chair to mind - Saussere is doing this in Geneva, and half a century later, linguists come back and understand. however, the relationship between this is arbitrary (no reason for "chair" to equal "chairness") - the relationship, then, and what makes this more controversial, is that it changes our understanding of how language works - we think of it like this: language offers up to us the meaning of the world, acting like a mirror, reflecting the world, however this is not true - you could just change it in theory, but
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