Operating Outside the Law: Detectives and Spies, 1880 - 1920

Morrison, Kate (2017) Operating Outside the Law: Detectives and Spies, 1880 - 1920. Doctoral thesis, Anglia Ruskin University.

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As a popular fiction hero Sherlock Holmes, embodies a mythical champion of enduring appeal, confirmed in his recent rebranding as defender of the oppressed for the twenty first century in a television series geared for the modern age. Stepping outside the boundaries of the law, he achieves an individualised form of justice superior to that of the judicial system in the eyes of his readers, yet, as I argue in this study, his long list of criminal offences places him firmly in the realms of criminality. This thesis explores the fictional discretionary lawbreaking of Sherlock Holmes and a range of contemporaneous maverick literary detectives and spies in popular literature produced between 1880 and the end of the First World War, including Martin Hewitt, Dick Donovan, Judith Lee, Hagar Stanley, Charles Carruthers and Arthur Davies, Richard Hannay and Bulldog Drummond. From Holmes to Hagar Stanley, the urban gypsy, my aim is to unearth the reasons for, the motivations behind and the implications of, the illegal behaviour of these fictional detectives. Charting the criminal liminality of amateur and professional detectives who manipulate justice on the mandatory authority of readers of popular fiction, I investigate the works in an interdisciplinary study that focuses on socio-cultural, historical, criminological and legal perspectives. In the light of a range of influences that created societal change, including the rise of professional society, evolving perceptions of crime, criminals and the law and the impact of societal shift from a religious to a secular morality, I engage with themes of gender, class and race revealing the discrimination and marginalisation endured by much of the population. My argument in this thesis counters the wholly Foucauldian view of D. A Miller in The Novel and the Police (1988) and Stephen Knight in Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction (1980), amongst others, who see the role of the fictional detective as embedding discipline, rational order and regulation in the reading public. Instead I argue that the behaviour of the literary detective represents a challenge to authority, which destabilises the status quo by shedding light on deep-rooted injustices at the heart of the judicial system. Each of the chapters in the study highlights aspects of the criminal justice system that run counter to the principles of justice, and traces the waning influence of morality on decision making as detectives mutate into spies near the turn of the century. My choice of texts from the works of eight authors in a combination of eighteen short story and novel works from popular culture, is based mostly on writers whose work featured in the pages of the popular (by popular I refer to authors who have published in magazines as well as in board collections) entertainment Strand Magazine in the course of their literary careers and who went on to achieve popular success, thus creating a shared connection and literary bond between the authors.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: popular fiction, Victorian detectives, Edwardian detectives, fictional female detectives, spy fiction
Faculty: Theses from Anglia Ruskin University
Depositing User: Melissa Campey
Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2017 08:24
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:59
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/701713

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