Women in Scandinavian and British Crime Fiction

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Last year in the course ‘The Female Dick: Women in Crime Fiction’, we examined female authors and female detectives in mainly American crime fiction, moving from the first women to make it in Hollywood like Leigh Brackett and Vera Caspary; to Sarah Paretsky’s and Marcia Muller’s early feminist incarnations; Janet Evanovich’s outrageously funny bounty hunter; the smart and indignant novels of Barbara Neely, and finally to Megan Abbott’s dark nostalgia.

This year, we’re taking on a new continent and examining a wide range of styles.

TV series, like The Killing, The Bridge and Wallander, have placed Scandinavian crime drama, with its haunting foreign settings, in the popular consciousness, and Nordic crime dramas have come to define a certain recognizable style: the latest series on BBC2, Top of the Lake, which is set in New Zealand, has been compared to Scandinavian crime fiction, and its director Jane Campion has cited The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo as an inspiration (although I think Twin Peaks has visited some of this ground before, albeit from a more absurd perspective, and I wonder if the Danish directors of The Killing looked to it for inspiration– especially in the scene when the mother learns of her daughter’s murder) . It is perhaps because the setting is so much a character in Scandinavian crime dramas that it will be interesting to see how the new US version of The Bridge, set on the border between Mexico and the US, will ‘translate’.

We’ll move from the exotic climes of Scandinavia to examine home grown and well-loved authors with new eyes. Over the past few years, there have been a lot of reasons to celebrate Britishness, including royal weddings and births and the Olympic games. But no where is the idea of Britishness more accessible to the world than through the genre of detective and crime fiction. Although James Bond, Sherlock Holmes and George Smiley may be the first names to mind, women, such as Agatha Christie’s elderly sleuth Miss Marple, have also made their international mark. Crime fiction, British or Scandinavian, may not be uncritical of a nation’s culture, as, for example, Steig Larsson takes on the evils of entrenched male chauvinism in Sweden, but the brilliance of some of the writers our countries have produced and exported is surely a matter of patriotic pride.

‘Women in Scandinavian and British Crime Fiction’ will run from 26 September for 10 weeks from 4-6pm.

We’ll be looking at the following texts:

Steig Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Liza Marklund’s The Bomber

Camilla Lackberg’s The Hidden Child

Sjowall and Wahloo’s The Laughing Policeman

PD James’ An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

Ruth Rendell’s Live Flesh

Dorothy L. Sayers’ Whose Body?

Margery Allingham’s Mystery Mile

Sign up today at the University of Liverpool’s Continuing Education.

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