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Murder, She Wrote: Women and Crime Fiction

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This module aims to introduce learners to the substantial body of crime fiction narratives written by women.

You will explore generic conventions, recurrent motifs, and issues surrounding prestige, gender and authorship.

  • What kinds of crime fictions were women writing in the Victorian period?
  • How did women’s crime fiction change and develop in the twentieth century?
  • Why has women’s crime fiction become an important genre to study and why might it have been neglected in the past?

Learning and teaching

Learning and teaching are undertaken by means of small group work. This is a 10-credit course, so there will be two-hour meetings once a week (20 contact hours in all) which will include:

Lectures and seminars

These introduce the basic information to the students. Hence there will be basic seminar-style sessions with tutor leading with talk and PowerPoint presentations as basis for group discussion and questions and answers. Students will be invited to read up on relevant topics for homework including specific passages from the selected novels.

Discussion and group work

Where appropriate, students will work in small groups to reflect critically on set questions and to contribute their own ideas.

Indicative schedule

Week 1 Women in Crime Fiction: Introduction
Week 2 Mary Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862)
Week 3 Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison (1930)
Week 4 and 5 Agatha Christie And Then There Were None (1945)
Week 6 Josephine Tey, The Franchise Affair (1948)
Week 7 Margery Allingham, The Tiger in the Smoke (1952)
Week 8 Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
Week 9 Sue Grafton, ‘A’ is for Alibi (1982)
Week 10 Women in Crime Fiction: Conclusion

Coursework and assessment

There will be no formal examinations. There are two assessment choices for this course:

  • 2 x 750-word writing assignments (equally weighted)
  • one essay of 1500 words at the end of the module (100%)

Reading suggestions

Literary texts used in module

  • Margery Allingham, The Tiger in the Smoke (1952)
  • Mary Braddon, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862)
  • Agatha Christie, And Then There Were None (1945)
  • Sue Grafton, ‘A’ is for Alibi (1982)
  • Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955)
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison (1930)
  • Josephine Tey, The Franchise Affair (1948)

Key Resource List

  • A Companion to Crime Fiction, ed. Charles J. Rzepka and Lee Horsley (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010)
  • Klein, Kathleen Gregory. The Woman Detective: Gender and Genre, 2nd edn (Illinois: Illini Books, 1995)
  • Knight, Stephen, Form and Ideology in Crime Fiction (London: Macmillan, 1980)
  • Knight, Stephen. Crime Fiction, 1800-2000: Detection, Death, Diversity (Hampshire and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)
  • Symons, Julian. Bloody Murder: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel, 3rd edn (London, Sydney and Auckland: Pan Books, 1994)
  • Watson, Kate, Women Writing Crime Fiction, 1860-1880 (Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland, 2012)

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.


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