Tracking Daniel's Steps: The First Pieces of Ratiocination

Tracking Daniel's Steps: The First Pieces of Ratiocination

Margarita Rigal-Aragón (Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Spain)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 34
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3379-6.ch015

Abstract

This chapter shows the results of a teaching-learning experience carried out for over 15 academic years. Since it is usually agreed that Edgar Allan Poe is the father of detective fiction, students are embarked in a deductive process to explore some key antecedents to “The Murders of the Rue Morgue.” This starts with the analysis of a few lines of Daniel's Book, Aesop's “The Fox and the Old Lion,” and some sections of Oedipus Rex. Afterwards the students enter the modern world, examining Hamlet, learning about Voltarie's Zadig, Vidocq, and The Newgate Calendar. Thenceforth, the impact of “Murders” among the 1840s public, together with its two sequels (“The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” and “The Purloined Letter”) is investigated, completing the Dupin Trilogy and assisting to the birth of “serialized” ratiocination narratives. Finally, students study “Thou Art the Man,” a non-Dupin detective story in which country manners are called into question.
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Background

Ratiocination –in the sense we use it here—as the basis of detective stories, detective fiction, the detective genre, etc., has been studied under many different lenses and from many diverse backgrounds. This will be a very brief literature review, for the jewels on the subject are countless. For instance, acknowledged writers of detective novels have provided their opinion on the matter. This was the case of P. D. James, who published in 2009 her Talking about Detective Fiction; the same did Dorothy Sayers, who wrote on Holmes (2001); or Julian Symons, with his Bloody Murder.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ratiocination: Reasoning process. A reasoned train of thought. Deductive method.

Analytical Method: It is the ability of studying objects/people/actions in a detailed and intelligent manner in order to reach to conclusions. It might imply the use of scientific exploration to examine something. Sometimes referred as analytical techniques/approach/skill, etc.

Detective Story: In a detective story an investigator, either an amateur or a professional, solves a crime. This crime can be a murder or any other type of offence.

Tale: Synonym of “story” in this article; this is, a literary text created using the imagination.

Teaching-Learning Process: Method in which the knowledge of teachers is transferred to their students. It can be developed through different systems (i.e., one way, in which the teacher is the only speaker; circular, in which teachers and students contribute to the development of the class, etc.).

Fiction: An imaginative from of narrative, with invented characters and events. Nevertheless, it may be based on a true story or situation. Fiction is usually considered as a form of art or entertainment.

Dupin Trilogy: Short way, used by Poe scholars, to refer to the three Poe stories in which Dupin is the protagonist, “The Murders of the Rue Morgue” (1841), “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” (1842-43), and “The Purloined Letter” (1843).

Multimodal Texts: Texts that do not only include a traditional format, but which is also developed through several means: screen, sound, etc.

Detective Genre: This literary variety, considered by many as non-canonical, began in the mid-nineteenth century. The main elements are the introduction and investigation of a crime. At the end, the culprit is usually unveiled.

Gothic Novels: Novels that belong to a fiction (sub)genre born in the last decades of the 18th century in England that soon spread across Europe and the newly established United States. Some of its main characteristics are the inclusion of supernatural elements and of gloomy and dark atmospheres and the aim of the authors of awakening feelings of terror and horror in the readers.

Clue: It is a piece of evidence or information used to solve an intricate matter. It is usually related to the uncovering of a crime.

Newgate Novels: Popular novels, written mainly in the 1830s and 1840s, that centered on the lives (trials, declarations, sentences, etc.) of real or fictional delinquents. These novels take their designation from the Newgate prison and its Calendar.

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