The Game Is On: Sherlock seminar

Mark Gatiss insists that the BBC’s Sherlock is “a show about a detective, not a detective show”. Part of the appeal of the series is in its creative and at times subversive play with the tropes and expectations not only of the detective genre, but of other genres – romance, horror, comedy. This seminar will explore episodes from all three seasons of Sherlock, considering the adaptation choices represented by the scripts, and the sophisticated staging, cinematography and production of the series, as elements in its re-imagining of both text and genre. The re-interpretation of Sherlock Holmes as an iconic character of crime fiction will be illuminated by some comparison with other television versions, notably the Granada Sherlock Holmes and CBS’s Elementary, and with Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. In addition to close analysis of the episodes, we will make some use of fan responses to the series and will consider their role in shaping genre expectations.

2016 Programme

  • 27th July: Introduction
    The detective genre: decoding the visual.
    “A series about a detective.”
  • 3rd August: election day, no seminar.
  • 10th August: “A Study in Pink”
    Doyle, “A Study in Scarlet”; Granada, “The Sign of Four”
    It’s always 1895! Adapting to the contemporary. Characterisation, re-working.
    Reading: Rosemary Jann, “Sherlock Holmes Codes the Social Body”
  • 17th August: “The Blind Banker”
    Doyle, “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
    Granada, “The Dancing Men” (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Episode 2)
    Stereotype, race, representation. Melodrama.
    Reading: Edward Said, “Orientalism”
  • 24th August: “The Great Game”
    Doyle, “The Bruce-Partington Plans”, “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty”, “The Final Problem”
    The antagonist: representing Moriarty
    Genre and morality: intellect and emotion.
  • 29th August to 3rd September: 10-day vac
  • 7th September: “A Scandal in Belgravia”
    Doyle, “A Scandal in Bohemia”
    Granada, “A Scandal in Bohemia” (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Episode 1)
    Gender politics: representing women and sexuality.
    Reading: Antonija Primorac, “Feminist Afterlives of Irene Adler”
  • 14th September: “The Hounds of Baskerville”
    Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
    Granada, “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Episode 26)
    Horror tropes, adaptation.
    Reading: Nils Clausson, “Degeneration, Fin-de-siecle Gothic and the Science of Detection”
  • 21st September: “The Reichenbach Fall”
    Doyle, “The Final Problem”
    Granada, “The Final Problem” (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Episode 13)
    Emotion versus rationality
    The detective as a media figure
    Reading: Svetlana Bochman, “Sherlock Holmes, Techno-Geek”
  • 28th September: “The Empty Hearse”
    Doyle, “The Adventure of the Empty House”
    Granada, “The Empty House” (The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Episode 14)
    Series structure and the cliffhanger. Fan responses.
    Reading: Ed Wiltse, “So Constant an Expectation”
  • 5th October: “The Sign of Three”
    Doyle, The Sign of the Four
    Granada, “The Sign of Four” (The Return of Sherlock Holmes, Episode 21)
    Genre, romance tropes
  • 12th October: “His Last Vow”
    Doyle, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”, “His Last Bow”, “The Man with the Twisted Lip”
    Granada, “The Master Blackmailer” (The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, Episode 33)
    Adapting Mary.

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