Commemorating Forgetting: 1922 and Golden Age Detective Fiction

Article


Gildersleeve, Jessica. 2022. "Commemorating Forgetting: 1922 and Golden Age Detective Fiction." Modernism/Modernity. 7 (2). https://doi.org/10.26597/mod.0245
Article Title

Commemorating Forgetting: 1922 and Golden Age Detective Fiction

ERA Journal ID34624
Article CategoryArticle
AuthorsGildersleeve, Jessica
Journal TitleModernism/Modernity
Journal Citation7 (2)
Year2022
PublisherThe Johns Hopkins University Press
Place of PublicationUnited States
ISSN1071-6068
1080-6601
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26597/mod.0245
Web Address (URL)https://modernismmodernity.org/forums/posts/gildersleeve-commemorating-forgetting-1922-golden-age-detective-fiction
Abstract

Detective fiction of the 1920s and 1930s, the genre’s “Golden Age,” is concerned with a desire to mitigate the moral injustices of the war, symbolized by the solution of the crime and the resolution of the narrative. In order to do this, Golden Age detective fiction avoids graphic or explicit depictions of violence and death even as its plots are primarily concerned with murder; as Alison Light puts it, “fleshiness, either figuratively or literally, was … in gross bad taste after the butchery many had witnessed.”[1] It is a genre, we might say, traumatized by its context. One hundred years on from the Golden Age, what does it mean to commemorate in narrative the denial of other memories: what does it mean to commemorate forgetting? Two novels published in 1922, Agatha Christie’s second novel, The Secret Adversary, and A.A. Milne’s first novel for adults, The Red House Mystery, each insist on reality over fiction, working to keep the secret of the traumas of the First World War. This secret-keeping operates in direct conflict with the readerly epistemophilia critical to the function of the detective novel as well as the contemporary desire to commemorate the past. Ultimately, despite what appears to be the genre’s determination simply to repress its own origins, contemporary commemoration must recognize detective fiction more specifically as a genre traumatized and thus unable to remember or to historicize.

KeywordsAgatha Christie, AA Milne, detective fiction, trauma, commemoration, memory
Contains Sensitive ContentDoes not contain sensitive content
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020470504. British and Irish literature
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Byline AffiliationsUniversity of Southern Queensland
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