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ENGL243 Tartan Noir: Scottish Crime Fiction

An exploration of the long tradition of 'Tartan Noir', from 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 of several Scottish crime novels.

Paper title Tartan Noir: Scottish Crime Fiction
Paper code ENGL243
Subject English
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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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 and Lecturer: Professor Liam McIIvanney

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 (Tey)
  • 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
  • Josephine Tey, The Singing Sands
  • Ian Fleming, Casino Royale
  • Muriel Spark, The Driver's Seat
  • Ian Rankin, Black and Blue
  • Val McDermid, A Place of Execution
  • Denise Mina, The Long Drop
  • Abir Mukherjee, A Rising Man

In addition to these texts, a number of supplementary critical readings will be available on e-Reserve.

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.

Students who successfully complete this paper 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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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Monday 13:00-14:50 9-14, 16-22


Stream Days Times Weeks
Attend one stream from
A1 Tuesday 12:00-12:50 12, 14, 16, 18-21
A2 Tuesday 14:00-14:50 12, 14, 16, 18-21