Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: 165 years ago today

From: Jess Nevins (
Date: 20 Apr 2006

-----Original Message-----
>From: Anthony Dauer <>
>What is a "proto-mystery / proto-dective"?

A "proto-mystery" is a work of fiction, written before the advent of the modern mystery genre, which has the themes and motifs of mystery fiction but is fundamentally about something other than the mystery and its solution. This includes Gothics, works like CALEB WILLIAMS and Voltaire's ZADIG, and the various pre-Poe short stories which included mystery and detection themes and motifs.

A "proto-detective" is a character in a proto-mystery who solves a mystery or is instrumental in doing so but is neither a professional crime-solver (and so not a policeman or policewoman) nor one by habit or temperament. The leads in most Proto-Mysteries solve a mystery or mysteries because they are forced to through various plot complications; when the mystery is solved they return to their previous position. So Susan Hopley, the maid in Catherine Crowe's SUSAN HOPLEY (1841, and another pre-"Rue Morgue" proto-mystery that Poe was aware of), solves the crime that is tearing apart the Leesons, the family she serves, but once the crime is solved and the status quo restores, she returns, happily, to serving the Leesons.


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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : 20 Apr 2006 EDT