Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon


    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.

    About this paper

    Paper title Tartan Noir: Scottish Crime Fiction
    Subject English
    EFTS 0.15
    Points 18 points
    Teaching period Not offered in 2024 (On campus)
    Domestic Tuition Fees ( NZD ) $981.75
    International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.
    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


    Not offered in 2024

    Teaching method
    This paper is taught On Campus
    Learning management system
    Back to top