Publication Date

April 2015


Matthew Garrett




English (United States)


This thesis explores the representation of crowds and masses in detective fiction from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. Taking as primary sources the classic detective stories of Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie, this thesis considers the models of the crowd presented by the texts, the methods of crowd control that the texts provide, and the status of the individual (and particularly the detective) in the context of the crowd. The thesis considers how early concerns about the crowd’s size and instability are supplanted by later concerns about individual identity within the crowd. Drawing on secondary sources on subjects including physiognomy, the history of the literary market, and the history of reading, this thesis tracks the displacement of anxieties about changing demographics and altered social life into detective fiction. The thesis considers how, in its nineteenth-century form, detective fiction develops methods of crowd control that alleviate anxieties about urbanization and every-growing city populations. In Christie’s work, the thesis focuses on concerns about individual identity in a mid-twentieth century milieu.



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