It Didn’t Mean Anything

A Psychoanalytic Reading of American Detective Fiction


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About the Book

This critical study of American detective fiction examines the history and development of the detective genre through the lens of psychoanalysis. Applying the ideas of French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, the author identifies and categorizes popular works according to the fictional protagonist’s hysteria, obsessive neurosis, perversion or psychosis. The first chapter identifies several instances of hysteria within the fiction of two of the genre’s pioneers, Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle. Chapter Two traces the development of the hard-boiled detective’s code of honor through the works of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, and Mickey Spillane, identifying the often-paradoxical nature of this code and its origins in obsessive neurosis. Chapter Three analyzes the anti-detective fiction of Philip K. Dick in terms of paranoid psychosis, and the final chapter returns to the question of hysteria, taking up the female hard-boiled detectives of author Marcia Muller.

About the Author(s)

Alexander N. Howe is an assistant professor of English at the University of the District of Columbia. He has written on Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, and Marcia Muller. He lives in Wheaton, Maryland.

Bibliographic Details

Alexander N. Howe
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 296
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3454-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0873-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Introduction: Reading the Detective and the Analyst Encore!      1

1. The Classical Detective: Truth, Knowledge, and the Imbecility of the Master      11
2. “Protective Thinking”: Obsessional Neurosis, Analysis, and the Hard-Boiled Detective      67
3. Hysteria, Paranoia, and Love in Philip K. Dick’s Anti-Detective Fiction      122
4. Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through: Traumatic Narrative in the Hard-Boiled Fiction of Marcia Muller      172

Afterword      237
Notes      241
Bibliography      269
Index      277

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Recommended”—Choice