Macquarie University
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'Truth detectives': the philosophy of metaphysical detective fiction

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posted on 2022-03-29, 02:16 authored by Lauren Alice
Metaphysical detective fiction is a rarefied sub-genre that appropriates formal aspects of popular detective stories to explore metaphysical ideas. Works that constitute this form of fiction use these aspects to pose philosophical questions about existence: about subjective experience, about identity, and about our relationship with reality. In particular, these narratives immerse the detective in a world constructed from elements of the Gothic and mystery genres to challenge our understanding of meaning and notions of 'truth', raising more questions than they attempt to answer. Mapping the genre from Poe to Pizzolatto, this thesis identifies Kafka's The trial as a key precursor to Borges' Death and the compass (1942), Nabokov's The eye (1930) and Beckett's Molloy (1951) in terms of the exploration of the metaphysics of identity. In addition, The trial is used as a meta-text to examine the disruption of ordered reality in Pynchon's The crying of Lot 49 (1966), Robbe-Grillet's The erasers (1953) and DeLillo's Players (1977). Auster's exemplary novel City of glass (1985) is then read in the context of Poe's "William Wilson" (1839) and "Man of the crowd" (1840), and interpreted alongside a close reading of Beckett's Molloy. Finally, Nic Pizzolatto's True detective (2014) is identified as the most recent example of metaphysical detective fiction, making a translocation from page to screen, into contemporary popular culture. This thesis defines the parameters of a (sub)-genre thats evades categorisation and conducts a detailed exploration of metaphysical detective fiction as a contribution to philosophy.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The worlds of the metaphysical detective -- Chapter 2. Nothing was real : author as detective in Paul Auster's City of glass -- Chapter 3. Illusions, delusions and the poetics of place in Nic Pizzolatto's True detective -- Jusrisdictions : towards a conclusion.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: leaves 78-89

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Paul Sheehan


Copyright Lauren Alice 2015. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (89 leaves) colour illustrations

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