Gender and genre: Feminist rewritings of detective fiction

Anne Cranny-Francis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents an analysis of the detective fiction genre and its use by feminist writers to reveal the practices of race, class, and sexual politics in contemporary society. I begin with a brief survey of the conventions of detective fiction, against which I then conduct a detailed analysis of three detective novels by women, Amanda Cross's Death in a Tenured Position (1981), Valerie Miner's Murder in the English Department (1982), and Barbara Wilson's Murder in the Collective (1984). In each case the political practice of the text is evaluated, particularly in relation to the writer's particular inflection of generic convention. Death in a Tenured Position is found to be a predominantly conservative text with the detective performing many of the roles of the traditional male detective. Both Murder in the English Department and Murder in the Collective work more innovatively with genre conventions to produce highly politicized texts, though Murder in the Collective capitulates finally to the lure of convention with a surprisingly conservative ending. Murder in the English Department is the most radical text and succeeds as "political fiction" though without the suspense of the classic Whodunnit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-84
Number of pages16
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1988


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