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American Noir Novels

A hybrid of the gothic novel and the detective story, American “noir” fiction serves not only as a unique contribution to the mystery novel, but also as a formidable genre in its own right. Both utterly realistic and profoundly oneiric, the mean streets and nightmare alleys of these novels, along with their world-weary heroes and femme fatales, have evolved into literary and cultural symbols with archetypal resonance. We will explore classic American noir novels as expressions of social and political protest and commentary, as well as aesthetically satisfying and dramatic renderings of an entire psychology—or even as a manifestation of a singular existential philosophy. Readings include two major precursors of noir and six modern noir classics: The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Edgar Allan Poe; The Turn of the Screw, Henry James; The Postman Always Rings Twice, James M. Cain; The Expendable Man, Dorothy B. Hughes; Nightmare Alley, William Lindsay Gresham; Rendezvous in Black, Cornell Woolrich; Deep Water, Patricia Highsmith; The Real Cool Killers, Chester Himes; and Pop. 1280, Jim Thompson.

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You'll Walk Away with

  • An understanding of the genre of American noir, as both social commentary and aesthetic form
  • Foundations and skills for lifelong learning

Ideal for

  • The curious and creative
  • Professionals who use critical thinking
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.