Literature: Crime Fiction

Ref: C2525526

Due to face to face teaching being suspended unfortunately this course is not currently available for enrolment.

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Crime fiction is undoubtedly one of the most popular genres in today's market. In 2017, crime became the UK's most popular adult fiction genre, outselling general and literary fiction for the first time. Established as a distinct literary genre in the nineteenth century, crime fiction has evolved from the locked room mysteries of the Victorian era, to the hardboiled American investigator of the 1930s, to psychological thriller of modern fiction. However, much like any genre fiction, there are certain key elements that must remain despite the adaptive nature of crime fiction. During this course we will be analysing the various changes the genre has undergone, and the cultural and critical discussion around such texts. We will be covering a selection of short stories and novel excerpts, alongside three core texts: Wilkie Collins' 'The Moonstone' (1868), Raymond Chandler's 'The Big Sleep' (1939), and Thomas Harris' 'The Silence of the Lambs' (1981).

Course aim

To explore the genre of crime fiction, and the way in which this genre has evolved over the years. To gain an understanding of the key characteristics of crime and detective fiction, as well as the surrounding criticism.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • This course is for anyone with an interest in studying literature, or in reading crime fiction.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how crime fiction has changed since it rose to popularity in the nineteenth century.
  • Identify key characteristics of the crime fiction genre.
  • Confidently discuss critical opinion regarding crime fiction.
  • Summarise the socio-historical contexts in which key texts were written, and discuss the impact of this.
  • Express your own opinions in a group setting using the text and discussions in class to support your argument.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • You will be encouraged to take part in class discussions.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • You will also need access to the internet outside of your sessions. You could do this using a smart phone, tablet, laptop or a desktop computer (at home or through a library etc.).
  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you
  • Please find a copy of the three novels we will be studying: Collins' 'The Moonstone;, Chandler's 'The Big Sleep', and 'The Silence of the Lambs'. A small number of texts will be available to borrow, and all students will be provided with a reader of short stories and excerpts.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • Please make a start on Collins' 'The Moonstone' before the beginning of the course, and if possible the other two novels. 'The Moonstone' can be found online for free on Project Gutenburg.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here

Download full course information sheet

Literature: Crime Fiction

Is this course right for me? Request more information

Due to face to face teaching being suspended unfortunately this course is not currently available for enrolment.

We are launching a range of online courses shortly that may be of interest to you so sign up here to hear more.


This course is funded by the Tees Valley Combined Authority but is also open to residents of other areas.

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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