This essay reconsiders the connection between the narrative closure of the Sherlock Holmes stories and their ideological and scientific contexts. Previous studies have taken contemporary scientific discourse to provide Holmes with his famed method of solving crimes. I argue that said method is merely a narrative effect, nowhere carried out in the narrative structure: scientific (or other) contemporary discourse is not the “real” of literary form. By examining the retrospective closure and focalization of the Holmes formula, especially in A Study in Scarlet, I propose a different relationship between novelistic subjectivity and empiricism from that given by Watt in The Rise of the Novel. Far from providing an effective epistemological procedure for the fictional detective, empiricism—considered as a picture of subjectivity and temporality—instead describes a set of narrative hitches and obstacles to closure.
The Method Effect: Empiricism and Form in Sherlock Holmes
ben parker is assistant professor of English at Brown University. His critical project is a study of novelistic recognition scenes that is also a materialist theory of excluded modes of subjectivity. His work has appeared in New Literary History and Film Quarterly.
Ben Parker; The Method Effect: Empiricism and Form in Sherlock Holmes. Novel 1 November 2016; 49 (3): 449–466. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-3651199
Download citation file: