The Metaphysical Detective Story from Poe to Postmodernism
Patricia Merivale and Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, Editors
"Metaphysical detective stories reveal much about the relation of modernism to postmodernism and of high to low literary culture. Detecting Texts makes an excellent case for the coherence and breadth of the genre. Its broad scope, clear writing, and notable contributions to a number of literary subfields are among its many virtues."—Shawn Rosenheim, Williams College
"No currently available anthology addresses the topic of the metaphysical detective story so directly, so fully, or so relevantly."—Brian McHale, West Virginia University
Although readers of detective fiction ordinarily expect to learn the mystery's solution at the end, there is another kind of detective story—the history of which encompasses writers as diverse as Poe, Borges, Robbe-Grillet, Auster, and Stephen King—that ends with a question rather than an answer. The detective not only fails to solve the crime, but also confronts insoluble mysteries of interpretation and identity. As the contributors to Detecting Texts contend, such stories belong to a distinct genre, the "metaphysical detective story," in which the detective hero's inability to interpret the mystery inevitably casts doubt on the reader's similar attempt to make sense of the text and the world.
Detecting Texts includes an introduction by the editors that defines the metaphysical detective story and traces its history from Poe's classic tales to today's postmodernist experiments. In addition to the editors, contributors include Stephen Bernstein, Joel Black, John T. Irwin, Jeffrey T. Nealon, and others.
Patricia Merivale is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of British Columbia.
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney is Associate Professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross.