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English Literature   >   Crime Writing

Origins of Crime Writing: Hamlet

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Crime Writing

In this course, Dr Christopher Pittard (University of Portsmouth) explores the history of Crime Writing, from Shakespeare's Hamlet (1599) to McEwan's Atonement (2001). We begin with a discussion of the origins of crime writing, thinking about Sophocles' Oedipus Rex and Shakespeare's Hamlet. We then fast-forward in time to discuss the Newgate Calendar and Dickens' Oliver Twist (1838). In the third module, we discuss Victorian detective fiction, specifically the work of Edgar Allen Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the fourth, we move to the 'Golden Age' of detective fiction, focusing on the work of Agatha Christie. In the fifth module, we discuss US 'Hardboiled' detective fiction and its influence on Graham Greene's Brighton Rock (1938). Finally, we come to the modern day, discussing psychological thrillers and metafiction, like Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News? (2008) and Ian McEwan's Atonement (2001).

Origins of Crime Writing: Hamlet

In this lecture, we look into the origins of crime writing, specifically focusing on: (i) how crime writing can be considered to have roots dating back to Sophocles' play "Oedipus Rex," where Oedipus functions as both detective and criminal, (ii) how Shakespeare's Hamlet can be considered as an early form of crime writing or detective fiction due to its exploration of murder, usurpation, and plots, (iii) how Hamlet as a play considers the limits of the representation of a murder, and (iv) the concern that Hamlet as a play has with surveillance, and how that is mirrored in the concerns of more modern crime writing.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Pittard, C. (2023, September 01). Crime Writing - Origins of Crime Writing: Hamlet [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Pittard, C. "Crime Writing – Origins of Crime Writing: Hamlet." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 01 Sep 2023,


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Dr Christopher Pittard

Portsmouth University