Essay on Crime Writing Hsc

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Module A: Genre
Elective 2: Crime Writing

 Extend, re-imagine and challenge conventions on the traditional detective story
 How changing contexts and values have brought about changes in traditional crime stories and brought new conventions
 New understandings of what constitutes a crime/who plays detective
 Account for increasing popularity different forms of crime, and how the traditional retain their appeal

Genre Criticism Quotes:

General Genre:

 “For readers, genres are sets of conventions and expectations: knowing whether we are reading a detective story, or a romance…we are on the lookout for different things and make assumptions about what will be significant.” – Jonathon Culler

 “We cannot speak or write without selecting a genre, without adopting a kind of communication which has certain rules and expectations” – Stephen Knight

 “A text cannot belong to no genre, it cannot be without…a genre. Every text participates in one or several genres, there is no genreless text” – Derrida 1981

 “Any theme may appear in any genre” – David Bordwell

 “Particular features which are characteristic of a genre are not normally unique to it; it is their relative prominence, combination and functions which are distinctive” – Neale

 “Difference is absolutely essential to the economy of genre; mere repetition would not attract an audience” – Neale

Reader Expectations:

 “A set of expectations” – Neal 1980

Evolution of the Genre/ Role of Context:

 “A genre develops according to social conditions; transformations in genre and texts can influence and reinforce social conditions” – Thwaites

 “Genres are like clichés – they might seem hackneyed, but that is because they have recurrent value of many people over time” – SK

 “Texts within genres embody the moral values of a culture” – Konigsberg


 “Genre is not simply given by the culture: rather, it is in a constant process of negotiation and change”- David Buckingham

 “Generic conventions embody the crucial ideological concerns of the time in which they are popular” – John Fiske


Crime Writing:


 “The genre’s flexibility is perhaps one reason for its wide and enduring appeal and means different things to different people at different times” – W.S


 “Much originality in crime fiction is basically a tweaking of previous patterns” – SK



 “A defining feature of the crime story is the place where it occurs” – SK

 “Setting can reinforce central themes, character constructions, plot and action. Or it can contrast with them” – NK


 “Crimes can vary as much as the rest of elements in the thriller” – SK

Detective/Investigative Technique:

 “There is also the highly emphasized question of investigative technique – indeed, this is what essentially distinguishes one subgenre from the other” – SK

Clues, twists and red-herrings

 “Such scattering of clues…may be manipulated to create a kind of anxiety in the reader” – RW


“Suspense is titillation and torture, promises and threats, the ecstasy and the agony” – NK

Set Text:


Anil’s Ghost (2000, Michael Ondaatje)

Conventions: (crime, detective, setting)

The Crime:
 The crime is unconventional and broad – it is a crime against humanity and war crimes o “What we’ve got here is unknown extrajudicial executions mostly. Perhaps by the insurgents, or by the government or the guerrilla separatists. Murders committed by all sides” (17-18)


HSC STUDY BUDDY o “Street bomb, usually containing nails or ball bearings, could cut open an abdomen fifty yards from the explosion” (126) o “There are innocent Tamils in the south being killed too” (133) o “He was still there an hour later when the bodies started coming in from a bombing somewhere in the city” (290) – always happening
 The motive for the crime