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ENGL243 Tartan Noir: Scottish Crime Fiction

An exploration of the long tradition of 'Tartan Noir', from forerunners such as Walter Scott through the 'classic' crime fiction of R.L. Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle to contemporary thrillers and police procedurals.

Scottish writers have made a significant contribution to the development of crime fiction, helping to establish the genre in the late 19th century and becoming some of its most globally popular exponents in the 21st century. This paper will introduce the key features, themes and techniques of crime fiction through a close analysis several Scottish crime novels and stories.

Paper title Tartan Noir: Scottish Crime Fiction
Paper code ENGL243
Subject English
EFTS 0.1500
Points 18 points
Teaching period First Semester
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $868.95
International Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,656.70

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One 100-level ENGL paper or 36 points
Schedule C
Arts and Music
Cannot be credited together with ENGL260 passed in 2013, 2014, 2015.
Teaching staff
Convenor: Professor Liam McIIvanney
Lecturers: Professor Liam McIlvanney and Professor Lyn Tribble
Paper Structure
The paper follows a chronological structure, but also aims to introduce students to the key genres of crime fiction, including:
  • The detective story (Doyle, Stevenson)
  • The spy novel (Buchan, Fleming)
  • The Golden Age clue-puzzle (Innes)
  • The police procedural (Rankin, McDermid)
  • The thriller (Mina)
Teaching Arrangements
The paper is principally taught through a weekly 2-hour lecture-seminar. The first hour of this weekly session will be devoted to a formal lecture on the text under discussion in that week's class. The second hour will be devoted to class discussion, involving both group work and plenary discussion on topics circulated in advance, and to the close analysis of techniques and passages from that week's text.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
  • John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps
  • Michael Innes, Death at the President's Lodging
  • Ian Fleming, Casino Royale
  • Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat
  • Ian Rankin, Black and Blue
  • Val McDermid, The Wire in the Blood
  • Denise Mina, The Long Drop
In addition to these texts, the course reader (available from the print shop) includes Walter Scott's 'The Two Drovers', several Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and a number of supplementary critical readings.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Research, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes
By the end of the paper students should have a sound knowledge of the key generic, technical and thematic features of Scottish crime writing as represented by the works on the syllabus.

They should:
  • Understand the historical trajectory of crime fiction as a genre
  • Be able to interpret works of crime fiction in relation to their literary and historical contexts
  • Be able to articulate their views cogently both in discussion and writing

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First Semester

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Monday 13:00-14:50 9-13, 15-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
T1 Tuesday 12:00-12:50 12, 15-16, 18-21
T2 Tuesday 14:00-14:50 12, 15-16, 18-22