Consider this description of mystery fiction from John Lanchester’s “The Case of Agatha Christie” in the London Review of Books.
Her career amounts to a systematic exploration of formal devices and narrative structures, all through a genre with strictly defined rules and a specified character list: a murder must happen, it must be solved by a detective, there must be a murderer, a victim, a set of characters who might be the murderer but turn out not to be, a number of possible motives, most of which turn out to be misleading; the setting must be circumscribed, the list of suspects finite, the motive and crucial evidence something disclosed to the reader but preferably not shown to be significant. And it must come in at around 50,000 words – that’s not a genre rule, it’s just how long Christie thought a murder story should be. . . . The elements of Christie’s fiction are all already in place: a country house, a finite list of suspects, the outsider detective intruding into a place of order and hierarchy that has been disrupted by a crime. . . . She isn’t much interested in the ethics or metaphysics of why people do the bad things they do. But she is unflinchingly willing to look directly at the truth that they do them. . . . Her sense of the world was that people do terrible things and suffer terrible consequences, and she took just enough of the truth of this to ground her fiction in a sense of reality, but never enough to unsettle the reader or disturb the genre frame. . . . In essence, that is what detective fiction is: a mystery about which of a particular cast of characters isn’t who they say they are. And that, I suggest, is a, perhaps even the, core reason for Christie’s appeal to so many readers in so many different times and places. Just as her work is formalist without being modernist, her preoccupation with identity, with the constructed nature of character and society, is a modernist preoccupation, expressed through a deliberately popular and accessible medium. Her work is a cocktail of orderly settings and deep malignity, of comfiness and coldness, and at its heart it asks one of the most basic questions of all, modernity’s recurring preoccupation: who are you?
Here are some examples of tercets.
This final exam is worth fifteen points.
As we’ve discussed during the semester, the exam consists of you sending your final proposal in a business letter format to your audience.
To demonstrate that you have sent it, either CC or BCC me on an email to your audience, or have me watch you put a hard copy into an addressed, stamped envelope. Once the envelope is sealed, I’ll put it in the mail for you.
The late paper policy, as written on the syllabus, applies to the final exam. Turn the exam in on time by demonstrating you’ve sent it before the end of the final exam period which corresponds to your section number on the 11th of December. The exam times are listed at the end of the syllabus. As long as I’m CC’ed, emailing the final exam demonstrates that you’ve sent it.
I will be in my office (CB 407 F) during the final exam period if you need to visit with me in person.
If you have questions about any of this, please contact me.
This take-home final exam is worth fifteen points. The late paper policy as described by the syllabus applies to the final exam. Turn the exam in by emailing it to me before it is due. It is due by the end of the final exam period. When you email the exam, include “English 3420,” the phrase “final exam,” and your name in the subject line.
For the final exam, submit a short story for publication and document that submission.
As you are researching venues for publication, be sure to select venues that are likely to publish your work. Pick a publication that will email you an acknowledgment of your submission. For the final, email a copy of that acknowledgment to me following the guidelines above.
If you have questions about this final, please contact me.
This take-home final exam is worth fifteen points. The late paper policy as described by the syllabus applies to the final exam. Turn the exam in by emailing it to me before it is due. It is due by the end of the final exam period. When you email the exam, include “English 2250” or “English 225H,” the phrase “final exam,” and your name in the subject line.
For the final exam, submit poems and a short story for publication and document those submissions. If you are taking this class as part of UVU’s Honors Program, you are required to submit and document two stories and two sets of poems. Each story and set of poems should be submitted to different publications.
As you are researching venues for publication, be sure to select venues that are likely to publish your work. Pick a publication that will email you an acknowledgment of your submission. Most will do so automatically, but receiving an acknowledgement is your responsibility. For the final, email a copy of that acknowledgment to me following the guidelines above.
If you have questions about this final, please contact me.
Here are two examples of synthesis extracted from longer essays. Answer these questions about them:
- What phrases let readers know two sources are being synthesized? Quote three.
- What language would you not use when writing a synthesis given your audience? Why not?
- How well must the sources be understood to synthesized?
- Looking back at your annotated bibliography, what connections between sources did you describe? Can you develop those connections into a synthesis?
Then, try writing one. Begin by answering these questions:
- What do at least two of your sources have in common? Ideas? Facts? Examples? Statistics?
- Are any people or works cited in more than one source?
- Does one source provide details, examples, or explanations that build on something said in another source?
- Does any source respond to something said or implied in another?
- What point from your proposal can you support through synthesis?
- What context might a synthesis you write provide?
Draft a synthesis for your proposal.