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Crime Fiction

as World Literature
Stewart King
Abstract. This article explores crime ction within a world-literature framework. It argues that
the study of national traditions can blind us to the dialogue across borders and languages between
texts and authors. It proposes a reading practice that aims to develop a more nuanced understanding of this truly global genre.

From its origins in the nineteenth century until the present day, the crime story has
crossed borders and languages, and everywhere it has settled local writers have appropriated
and rewritten it to address their own specic concerns. However, despite the international
spread of crime ction and the success of crime writers from all over the world such as
Agatha Christie, Georges Simenon, Dashiell Hammett, and (more recently) Henning Mankell, Natsuo Kirino, Qiu Xiaoling, Fred Vargas, and James Lee Burke, there has been little
attempt to understand the genre in its global context. This article seeks to explore the international dimensions of crime ction by framing the genre within a world-literature framework. In doing so, it seeks answers to the following questions: why study crime ction as
world literature? What is the relationship between nationally focused studies of crime ction
and a world-literature approach? And what form or forms might a practice of world crime
ction take?
The examples discussed here come mostly from the practice of Anglophone crime
ction criticism.1 Writing in 1999, John G. Cawelti observed that mystery criticism lags
behind in the regionalization and the internationalization of the detective story (Detecting 54) and, in a later publication, he lamented that English and American critics are
largely unaware of the work done by the French and Germans (Mystery 311). Caweltis criticism is borne out in the numerous introductory studies to crime ction that prioritize the
Anglo-American canon and either ignore or treat nonAnglophone texts supercially. One
such example is the Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction in which Martin Priestman,
Stewart King teaches Spanish and Latin American studies and coordinates the International Literatures
program at Monash University, Australia. He has published extensively on contemporary Catalan and
Spanish narrative, particularly crime ction, and he is currently completing a monograph on cultural
identity and crime ction from Spain.
CLUES A Journal of Detection / Volume 32, Number 2 / Fall 2014 / pp. 819 /
ISSN 0742-4248 (paper) / ISSN 1940-3046 (online) / DOI: 10.3172/CLU.32.2.8 / 2014 McFarland & Company, Inc.

CLUES Volume 32, Number 2

the editor of this otherwise excellent introductory text, recognizes that crime ction is
multilayered rather than unidirectional (6), but the collection itself does not reect this;
it consists of studies of Anglo-American crime narratives with one exception: a single chapter on French crime ction by Sita Schtt.2
In the years since Cawelti called on scholars of crime ction to engage more broadly
with nonmainstream and nonAnglophone detective, mystery, and crime narratives, a
growing number of scholars have done just that, producing book-length studies of crime
narratives from France (Gorrara; Hutton), Italy (Past; Pezzotti; Pieri), the Iberian Peninsula
(Godsland; Vosburg), Japan (Kawana; Seaman), Cuba and Mexico (Braham; Ux), and
Scandinavia (Forshaw; Nestingen and Arvas).3 Despite undoubtedly expanding the parameters of mystery literature and developing greater awareness of the diverse practice of crime
ction globally, these studies have not been able to break the monopoly of the AngloAmerican canon; this continues to sit front and center, whereas the studies of national literatures are relegated to the margins with little critical engagement between the two.4
Furthermore, although these works help to raise awareness of the variety of crime narratives practiced throughout the world, studies of crime ction works that fall outside the
Anglo-American focus, like analyses of the Anglo-American canon, rarely reect the global
dimensions of mystery writing. In some ways, these very studies contribute to their own
marginalization in crime ction criticism by tending to limit their object of analysis to a
specic national or regional literary tradition. These studies of national crime ction reveal
a pattern, or what Franco Moretti calls a law of literary evolution (58, emphasis in original),
by which the global genre becomes nationally bounded. This occurs through the focus on
the progress toward the production of truly autochthonous crime narratives by writers in
the specic national tradition on which the scholar works. In this pattern, analyses tend to
begin with the translation of foreign mainly Anglo-American and French models such
as the novels and short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie,
Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Georges Simenon into the national language.
In the second phase, scholars identify and
evaluate crime narratives by local writers in
terms of the degree to which they are imitative of foreign models or contribute to the
creation of national crime ction. In my own
eld of crime ction from Spain, for example, critics recognize that the genre came late
to Spanish letters, with the rst acknowledged detective novel being La gota de sangre (The Drop of Blood, 1911) by Naturalist
writer Emilia Pardo Bazn (see gure 1). Yet,
despite receiving praise for introducing the
genre into Spanish literature, Pardo Bazn is
also taken to task by critics because La gota
de sangre was seen as being based more on
imitation of foreign models than on the very
real possibility of creating an autochthonous
criminal literature (Valles Calatrava 91).5
Critics also decry the fact that, in the period
Figure 1. Author Emilia Pardo Bazn. Frontispiece spanning Pardo Bazns tentative rst steps
from Pardo Bazn, A Christian Woman (1891).
in the genre to the 1970s, the majority of
Crime Fiction as World Literature

crime writers from Spain tended to reproduce foreign patterns, as authors reportedly
responded to readers expectations and set their stories abroad in exotic locales and populated their narratives with foreign characters. In many cases, this act of national literary
transvestism was completed by the use of foreign (usually English or faux English) pseudonyms, with accompanying ctitious English titles from which the novels were supposedly
translated into Spanish.6 Such was the case of Fernanda Cano who, writing as Mary Francis
Colt, wrote 13 novels between 1953 and 1963 in the English cozy tradition.
For scholars of Spanish crime ction, writers like Cano or Colt are not seen as authentically Spanish, and therefore they rarely attract critical attention beyond the anecdotal.
Instead, scholars are more interested in so-called authentic works of Spanish crime ction,
the national legitimacy of which is assured by characters who openly aunt typical Spanish
traits in the characterization of their personality and in their language [and] . . . situations
presented in the Spanish detective novels [that], while somewhat universal, continue to
correspond directly to social conicts particular to Spanish reality (Colmeiro 265).
The development of Spanish crime ction from translation, through imitation to original creation sketched here, is representative of the way in which critics tend to chart the
expansion of crime stories beyond the Anglo-American canon (see, for example, Pieri;
Seaman). Such an approach centers very much on the development of a national literary
tradition at the expense of international connections between works. This approach is
understandable, given that literary scholars tend to be based within nationally focused university departments of English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, or Scandinavian languages and tend to have to bow to institutional pressures to produce
scholarship in their eld. The aim here is not to undermine the legitimacy of national
approaches; it is important to understand how the genre develops in a particular society
and how local writers adopt and adapt the genre to suit their specic circumstances. Nevertheless, although the national approach is understandable and a necessary academic practice, this article argues for the denationalization of crime-ction studies. That is, in place
of the national framework that dominates current critical practice, it is proposed here that
we read crime ction as an example of world literature to gain greater insights into the
global reach of the genre.
From its beginning as a concept, world literature has sought to avoid the straitjacket
of national traditions. In one of the earliest uses of the term, Goethe proposed that
[n]ational literature is now a rather unmeaning term, because poetry is the universal
possession of mankind, revealing itself everywhere and at all times in hundreds and hundreds of men (Goethe and Eckermann 2223). To understand literature more fully, Goethe
believed that we should follow his practice and look . . . in foreign nations, because the
epoch of world literature is at hand, and everyone must strive to hasten its approach
(Goethe and Eckermann 23). Since Goethe rst sketched his vision of world literature,
scholars have struggled to dene this elusive term. Is it all literature that has been produced
everywhere and throughout history? Is it limited to a selection of the literary masterpieces
from around the globe? What is its relationship with national literatures? And, focusing on
the subject of crime ction, what are the implications for the study of crime narratives
from around the globe?
The practice of world literature can be reduced to two broad approaches: inclusive
and exclusive. In developing what he calls transcultural literary analysis, Swedish scholar
Anders Pettersson maintains there should be no predetermined national or temporal limitations placed on the study of literature (463). Pettersson does acknowledge that [t]here
is a tendency to think of the united literatures of the world as something that is simply too
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vast to contemplate (466), but he argues that continental European scholars do exactly
that and he cites several examples, including the German New Handbook of Literary Studies,
published in 25 volumes, as evidence that world histories of literature can be produced
(466).
While acknowledging that world literature, as described in Petterssons transcultural
literature, may in some sense exist as an ideal order, a hypothetical mental construct
(Damrosch, What 111), David Damrosch and Claudio Guilln argue for more restrictive
interpretations of world literature. Guilln calls the inclusive approach a wild idea, unattainable in practice, worthy not of an actual reader but of a deluded keeper of archives
(39), whereas for Damrosch, a category from which nothing can be excluded is essentially
useless (What 110). Instead, Damrosch proposes that world literature encompasses all literary works that circulate beyond their culture of origin, either in translation or in their
original language (What 4). Perhaps recognizing that such a denition still leaves scholars
facing an enormous literary eld, Damrosch provides a further restriction; he limits world
literature to the relevance of any text at any particular moment: a work only has an effective
life as world literature whenever and wherever it is actually present within a literary system
beyond that of its original culture (What 4, emphasis in original).
There are many crime novels that conform to Damroschs and Guillns criterion for
a text being treated as a work of world literature, particularly the novels of Christie and
Simenon. With works translated into more than 100 languages, sales of 1 billion in English,
and a further billion in other languages, Christie is allegedly the bestselling author of all
time. Likewise, in the mid1980s it was estimated that the Belgian-born Simenon was the
most read living novelist on the planet (Platten 15). These two writers are perhaps just the
most well-known examples of the many crime writers whose works are read far beyond the
public for which they were originally produced. More recently, the global popularity of socalled Nordic noir with Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson, and Camilla Lackberg is ongoing
proof of the genres international relevance and hence its place within the sphere of world
literature.
The world literariness of crime ction is not only evident in the number of languages
into which a novel is translated or in the number of sales worldwide. Although these are
important markers, works and authors can be identied who enter into the pantheon of
world crime ction through the numerous intertextual references to earlier works and writers that appear in the crime narratives of writers around the globe. Two such examples are
pioneering Japanese and Catalan crime writers Taro Hirai and Jaume Fuster. Taro Hirai,
for instance, expresses his debt to the author of The Murders in the Rue Morgue in his
nom de plume, Edogawa Rampo, whereas Jaume Fuster acknowledges the inuence of Ross
Macdonald and Dashiell Hammett in his short-story collection Les claus de vidre (The Glass
Keys), featuring his detective Llus Arquer, a Catalanized version of Macdonalds private
investigator Lew Archer.7
Although the global reach of crime ction in translation and in the original should
make it an ideal example of world literature, the practitioners of world literature have
largely ignored the crime genre, except perhaps as teaching practice (see Buckler). The
absence of crime ction in world-literature approaches may perhaps be due to the focus
on so-called works of high culture; those literary texts considered worthy of study and
translation beyond the country in which they were produced. This is evidenced in the titles
of popular anthologies of world literature such as The Best of the Worlds Classics (1909),
The Harvard Classics (1910), Masterpieces of World Literature in Digest Form (1949), and the
Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces (1956). More recent anthologies such as the sixCrime Fiction as World Literature

11

volume Longman Anthology of World Literature (2004) and the Norton Anthology of Western
Literature (2004, 8th ed.), although more open to noncanonical texts through inclusion of
folklore and popular songs, also exclude examples of modern works of popular ction such
as science ction, erotic, fantasy, romance, and, of course, crime ction.
The exclusion of popular ction in the study of world literatures replicates a division
that already exists in literary studies. As Ken Gelder argues, it can often seem as if Literature
and popular ction exist in a constant state of mutual repulsion and repudiation (11). In
this scheme, world literature represents quality and its key values are called originality,
complexity, closure, autonomy, personality, multilayeredness, timelessness, and so on,
whereas popular ction is characterized by quantity, and its credo is a cluster of value
gathering notions such as surprise or novelty . . ., format and genre (and, on a more microstylistic level, formulaic writing), sensationalism and voyeurism . . ., and nally heteronomy (Baetens 336 37). The underlying motivation for the study of world literature seems
to be that if you want to analyze texts across national traditions, then you should choose
quality works that justify the time and effort invested in stepping outside a national tradition.
Whereas world-literature scholars have ignored the detective genre, crime-ction
experts have attempted to comprehend better the global reach of the genre. This can be
seen in the few studies of so-called international crime ction published to date. These
studiesInvestigating Identities: Questions of Identity in Contemporary International Crime
Fiction (2009) edited by Marieke Kranjenbrink and Kate M. Quinn; The Foreign in International Crime Fiction: Transcultural Representations (2012) edited by Jean Anderson, Carolina Miranda, and Barbara Pezzotti; as well as Peter Baker and Deborah Shallers edited
collection Detecting Detection: International Perspectives on the Uses of a Plot (2012) mirror
Petterssons inclusive approach and do not place limits upon the study of crime ction. As
a result, these excellent collections contain examples of crime ction from around the globe,
including China, France, the Pacic Islands, Australia, Austria, Russia, Cuba, India, and
Italy. The global dimension of crime ction is also analyzed in studies of postcolonial crime
ction such as The Post-Colonial Detective (2001) edited by Ed Christian, Postcolonial Postmortems: Crime Fiction from a Transcultural Perspective (2006) edited by Christine Matzke
and Suzanne Mhleisen, and Detective Fiction in a Postcolonial and Transnational World
(2009) edited by Nels Pearson and Marc Singer. Nevertheless, although there are exceptions
(see Chiaroni; Erdmann, Nationality; Mathur), in these international and postcolonial
collections the majority of the chapters are limited to the national tradition to which the
author or text belongs, be it Catalan or Canadian, Algerian or Argentine. The responsibility
for making the international connections between texts and authors is largely left to the
editors of the respective collections and, of course, to those readers who read more than
one chapter.8
An exception to national-bounded approaches to crime ction can be found in the
work of German scholar Eva Erdmann, who is one of the few critics to theorize the notion
of world crime ction.9 Like Pettersson, Erdmann advocates inclusiveness. In Topographical Fiction: A World Map of International Crime Fiction, she proposes mapping the settings in which crime novels take place to demonstrate the international range of crime
ction and, not least, . . . show up the gaps in a universal crime-scene world (279). This
map, Erdmann argues, allows us to discover the existence or absence of Kenyan or Korean
crime ction; to identify locations where crime novels concentrate such as New York, London, Barcelona, Paris, Cape Town, and Buenos Aires; and to see how different authors
characterize these places. Erdmanns atlas of world crime ction is an exciting proposal,
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CLUES Volume 32, Number 2

but it also has its limitations. Where would Ed McBains 87th Precinct novels, set in the
ctitious city of Isola, appear on such a map? Where exactly would we locate Christies St.
Mary Mead, home to Miss Jane Marple? Furthermore, although she opens up the study of
crime ction to texts from around the world, Erdmann to a certain degree binds the
texts into another national framework by attributing nationality to the locus criminalis
(Nationality 12). She does this by attributing nationality to the location in which the
crime novel is set irrespective of whether the author is from that country or not. Thus, in
her example, Erdmann suggests that Robert Wilsons Javier Falcn series set in Seville may
be assigned geographically to the multiple category: Spanish literature of British origin
(277). Wilson, however, also produces Portuguese literature in A Small Death in Lisbon
(1999) and, following Erdmanns classication, has produced what is probably the most
well-known works of Beninese literature in his Bruce Medway novels set in the West African
republic.
This return to the national within the framework of international crime ction highlights the difculties of an inclusive approach in practice. A history or a map of world crime
ction would be a massive undertaking, given that thousands of crime novels are produced
each year in the United States alone, and if all crime novels produced elsewhere were
included as well, it is clear how quickly a history or even a map of world crime ction
becomes an impossible undertaking. Faced with such an overwhelming task, it is easy to
understand why scholars choose to remain safely within the borders of a national literary
tradition.
Despite these difculties, a world-literature approach to crime ction can be achieved,
but not by reading more novels. Even Petterssons inclusive approach does not imply that
scholars have to attempt to read every work of crime ction that has ever been published
in order to consider themselves experts. Rather, Pettersson compares the study of world
literature to that of world history, arguing that just as you would expect a historian, regardless of his or her precise specialty, to have some modest grasp of world history, so, too,
should literary scholars have a modicum of transcultural literary-historical knowledge
(466). Scholars can and should work on smaller segments (467). However, these smaller
segments should not be limited to what Pettersson calls the cultural claustrophobia of
national literatures (464), such as the majority of chapters that make up the international
and postcolonial crime-ction collections previously mentioned. Instead, he urges literary
scholars to overcome the risk of parochialism in a scholars or critics outlook and writings
by bringing novels from different traditions together and getting them to speak to each
other and, at times, against each other (466). In applying Petterssons transcultural approach
to the study of crime ction, rather than studying the development of the crime genre in
a particular national tradition, scholars could protably analyze the evolution of particular
subgenres such as the murder mystery, the hard-boiled novel, the spy thriller, and so forth
across different countries and languages or study the appearance of new tropesfor example, the characterization of women detectives across the globe.
Moretti observes that world literature is not an object, its a problem, and a problem
that asks for a new critical method (55, emphasis in original). Likewise, Damrosch proposes
that world literature is not so much an object of study, a canon of great works that must
be read, but a reading practice, a way of analyzing literary texts outside of the cultural and
intellectual tradition from which they come (What 297). The practice of reading world
crime ction requires a shift from studying the production of crime ction to its consumption. That is, a shift from writers to readers.
In studying crime ction as world literature, we should not completely abandon the
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study of crime writers in their national context, as an understanding of authors who selfconsciously write within a specic national tradition is important in itself. Instead, it is
proposed here that we approach crime ction in the way that many crime ction readers
do. Rarely do readers only read novels by writers from a single country or set exclusively
in a particular country; rather, they often enjoy a range of texts written by authors from
different countries and/or writers who set their novels in numerous foreign locales (see
Schreier). Many readers of crime ction read the genre in a worldly way, and to develop
crime ction as world literature, scholars need to create an analytical practice that reects
this.
Such a practice is based on the need to make connections between works and writers.
Italo Calvino argues that the study of literature is always a dialog amongst many voices
which intersect and reply to each other within literature and outside it (412). In this vein,
the objective of a world-literature approach to crime ction is to establish this dialogue
between writers and texts across national, cultural, linguistic, and temporal borders. To
create this dialogue, a process of triangulation between the world, the text and the reader
is required. As David Damrosch puts it:
As we triangulate between our own present situation and the enormous variety of other
cultures around and before us, we wont see works of world literature so fully enshrined
within their cultural context as we do when reading those works within their own traditions, but a degree of distance from the home tradition can help us to appreciate the
ways in which a literary work reaches out and away from its point of origin. If we then
observe ourselves seeing the works abstractions from its origins, we gain a new vantage
point on our own moment. (What 300)

Damroschs triangulation process can be protably applied to the study of crime ction
as world literature. In practice, the focus of world-literature studies is generally dened in
three ways: (1) as a study of the classics from around the globe, (2) as masterpieces of literature from different national traditions, and (3) as windows onto specic cultures. Although
a case can be made for the creation of a canon of masterpieces of world crime ction that
every scholar should know, the study of crime ction as world literature falls most comfortably within the third category windows onto specic cultures and societies. As Anderson, Miranda, and Pezzotti argue, the proliferation of crime novels around the globe means
that crime ction could be considered a new form of travel writing (1), albeit to places
and situations the reader may never wish to experience rsthand.
As a form of travel writing, crime novels frame how readers experience the town, city,
or country depicted in the story itself. They do so by focusing attention on how specic
societies and cultures represent transgression and its policing. Heather Worthington maintains:
[a] crime implies the violation of a community code of conduct and demands a response
in terms of the code. It always depends on a legal denition, and the law. As a result, in
representing crime and its punishment, whether evoked or merely anticipated, detective
novels invariably project the image of a given social order and the implied value system
that helps sustain it. By naming a place and by evoking the socio-economic order that
prevails within it, they conrm, in fact, that there can be no transgression without a
code, no individual criminal act without a community that condemns it. (120 21)

Crime novels thus provide a means of understanding the relationship between crime
and community in the popular imagination. Who is killed, where, why, by whom, and how
the investigation resolves or does not resolve the case; what punishment, if any, is meted
out to the criminal these are all factors that can shape a particular communitys under14

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standing of transgression. According to Cawelti, the criminal act disrupts the social fabric,
and the detective must use his unique investigative skills to sew it back together again. In
the process, the skillful writer can reveal certain aspects of a culture that otherwise remain
hidden (Detecting 55). In the sense that transgression is culturally specic, the national
context of a crime novel becomes important and is not entirely redundant as a category
when adopting a world-literature approach. However, whereas a nation-bounded approach
examines the transgression within the national context, a world-literature approach seeks
to take the crime beyond the national borders to compare and contrast it with the representation of criminal acts and their policing in a number of different contexts.
Critics have highlighted that studying specic genres can facilitate the analysis of texts
across different literary traditions, as the conventions that dene any particular genre play
a major role in the shaping of works and in forming audiences expectations for them
(Damrosch, How 47). As Damrosch suggests, we can learn a good deal about a culture by
seeing which elements a given tradition highlights, and how its writers use them (How
47). Moretti makes a similar point; he argues that comparative morphology is such a fascinating eld because by studying how forms vary, you discover how symbolic power
varies from place to place (66). Although in his example Damrosch focuses on high cultural
forms like drama and the epic, this genre-centered approach can be used to study popular
ctions as well. The crime genre, with its typologies and topoi formulae, is one such example. Gelder notes there is probably not a more formulaic type of popular ction than the
crime narrative, and he argues that great effort must be made to distinguish works through
characters and places (63). In analyzing crime ction within a world-literature approach,
the very repetitive and formulaic aspects of the genre that are so often derided by literary
scholars instead become positive features.
What direction might a practice of world crime ction take? In some ways, both the
inclusive and the exclusive approaches to the study of world literature can be deployed usefully in the study of crime ction from around the globe. Although no crime novel is necessarily excluded, scholars need to focus on more manageable elements in the interests of
practicality. As mentioned earlier, an evolutionary approach could focus on the adoption
and adaptation of the murder mystery, the hard-boiled novel, or the spy thriller across the
world. Such an approach could also analyze the use of a particular literary device across
time and place such as the so-called locked-room mystery rst used by Edgar Allan Poe
in The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) and later developed in Arthur Conan Doyles
The Adventure of the Speckled Band (1892) and The Valley of Fear (1914 15); Gaston
Lerouxs Le Mystre de la chambre jaune (publ. as The Mystery of the Yellow Room, 1908);
and more recently in Stieg Larssons Mn Som Hatar Kvinnor (2005; publ. as The Girl with
the Dragon Tattoo, 2008), in which the island of Hedeby becomes a locked room when
its only exit to the mainland a bridge is cut off because of a trafc accident.
Another approach is to examine specic historical events or phenomena through the
prism of the crime genres conventions, particularly its focus on legality and justice. One
such example is the study of crime novels that engage with the National Socialist past and
its legacy in the postwar era conducted by British scholar Katharina Hall (288). In this
study, Hall has identied more than 150 transnational crime novels, including English, German, Czech, Polish, and Canadian, which treat this topic. For Hall, the study of an historical
event or period such as National Socialist rule in Germany and Europe through crime
ction from writers of different backgrounds and nationalities can provide illuminating
depictions of policing and encourage readers, via the gure of the Nazi detective, to think
critically about issues of justice, moral agency, and guilt (311).
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Closely related to Halls research is the notion of transitional justice in postdictatorial


societies. In recent years, there has been a slew of crime novels from countries that had suffered repression under dictatorships, including Eduardo Sacheris The Secret in Their Eyes
(Argentina), Andrs Trapiellos Los amigos del crimen perfecto (The Friends of the Perfect
Crime, Spain), Purge (Estonia) by Estonian-language Finnish writer So Oksanen, and Bernard Schlink and Walter Popps Gerhard Self series (Germany). A world-literature analysis
of these novels would offer insights into the multiple ways in which writers use the genre
to position past actions within the legal framework, which is the basis of the crime genre.
In this way, such novels do not just seek to overcome institutionalized disremembering by
recovering repressed memories; they are also an attempt to focus attention on historical
justice from a legal point of view.
From tentative beginnings in the early part of the twentieth century, but particularly
from the 1970s onward, women writers have penned crime novels featuring women detectives whether amateur, professional, or police as a means of exploring issues related to
womens oppression such as physical and psychological abuse, rape, prostitution, institutional and social discrimination, and female agency. By adopting a world-literature approach
that focuses on the representation of female characters as victims, criminals, detectives,
and other roles in different cultures and societies, crime ction can tell us much about how
the issues facing women and how their role in society are viewed. Similar world-literature
approaches can be applied to the construction of race, homosexuality, class, and ethnicity
across cultures and countries.
Finally, a world-literature approach could protably study the reception of particular
novels in different parts of the world. Why are some novels international successes and
others are not? What is it in Larssons Millennium Trilogy that resonates across languages
and cultures? How have critics, writers, and readers responded to works by Conan Doyle,
Christie, Hammett, and Spillane? The study of the reception of particular texts, such as
that undertaken by Margrit Schreier, can protably draw on readers reviews at booksellers
sites, fan sites, and blogs to gain insights into how novels travel beyond their home culture.
Translator Edith Grossman describes national literature as a narrowing, conning
concept based on the distinction between native and foreign (17). To overcome this straitjacketing, she argues for literary translation because [t]ranslation asserts the possibility
of a coherent, unied experience of literature in the worlds multiplicity of languages
while, at the same time, celebrating the differences among languages and the many varieties
of human experience and perception they can express (17). Grossman does not advocate
abandoning entirely the study of national traditions; she recognizes that national literature
is certainly a valid and useful differentiation in some areas and under certain circumstances (17). As Worthington argues, crime ction is tied to how any one culture or society
constructs and represents crime. Although this feature fundamentally links crime ction
to a specic place, applying Grossmans idea to the study of world crime ction leads to the
conclusion that the study of crime novels in the original or in translation across national
traditions, rather than within them, can reap new insights into the relationship between
particular communities and transgression. A world-literature approach thus has the potential to develop new interpretations and a more nuanced understanding of this truly global
genre.
Keywords: crime ction, international literature, world literature

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NOTES
1. Further research is required to determine whether crime-ction criticism produced in languages
other than English follows the nationally bounded tradition discussed later or whether there is a greater
attempt to understand crime ction in its global context.
2. Two further studies that conrm this trend are Gill Plains Twentieth-Century Crime Fiction:
Gender, Sexuality and the Body and John Scaggss Crime Fiction. Despite their general titles, Plain only
examines English-language works, whereas Scaggss work contains a smattering of references to French
works and a discussion of Umberto Ecos Il nome della rossa (publ. as The Name of the Rose, 1980).
3. Studies of nonmainstream Anglo-American ction works include monographs on Jewish (Roth),
African American (Pepper; Soitos; Gifford) and Native American (Browne; Rodriguez) crime ction.
This list is limited to works written in English. It therefore does not take into account the vast body of
research on the detective novel conducted by scholars who publish in languages other than English.
4. An exception to this is Alistair Rolls and Deborah Walkers French and American Noir: Dark
Crossings (2009).
5. Translations from the Spanish are by the author.
6. The use of English pseudonyms was also common in Italian crime ction until the 1990s, according to Gabriella Turnaturi (55).
7. Although the examples cited demonstrate the inuence of Anglo-American models on non
Anglophone crime writers, such inuence does not always come from the United States and Britain.
For example, Sicilian author Andrea Camilleri shows his esteem for Spanish author Manuel Vzquez
Montalbn by naming the protagonist of his series Salvo Montalbano.
8. This is also the case with so-called European crime-ction studies such as Crime Scenes: Detective
Narratives in European Culture Since 1945 (2000), edited by Anne Mullen and Emer OBeirne, which
contains only one article that examines ction in more than one country.
9. Pioneers in this eld include geographer George Demko, who has taught and written extensively
about the evolution of crime ction around the world, and Nina King and Robin W. Winks, whose
Crimes of the Scene (1997) is an armchair travel guide to crime ction across the globe.

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