Baudrillard appeared uninterested in the detective story and his work barely features in studies of the genre. This essay argues, however, that analyzing detective fiction from a Baudrillardian perspective – concentrating in particular on how the genre is structured around a tension between the forms Baudrillard termed “production” and “seduction” – can nonetheless illuminate how it works and enable us to reassess how far classic nineteenth-century detective fiction adhered to the principles of scientific logic, panopticism, and positivism. The essay begins by exploring detective fiction generally in relation to Baudrillardian approaches to the object and seduction before looking at two very different examples of detective fiction, but which turn out to explore the opposition between production and seduction in similar ways: the parodic detective dramas of the contemporary conceptual artist Sophie Calle, and Edgar Allan Poe's classic detective story, “The Purloined Letter.”
Detective Fiction and “The Original Crime”: Baudrillard, Calle, Poe
BRAN NICOL IS READER IN MODERN AND CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF PORTSMOUTH, UK, WHERE HE IS ALSO DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRE FOR STUDIES IN LITERATURE. HIS PUBLICATIONS INCLUDE STALKING (REAKTION BOOKS, 2006), THE CAMBRIDGE INTRODUCTION TO POSTMODERN FICTION (CUP, 2009), AND THE CO-EDITED VOLUME CRIME CULTURE: FIGURING CRIMINALITY IN FICTION AND FILM (CONTINUUM, 2010). HE IS CURRENTLY COMPLETING THE PRIVATE EYE: DETECTIVES IN THE CINEMA (REAKTION BOOKS).