Detection & Rhetorics of Evidence

Instructor: Barry F. Saunders

Detection engages the problem of the hidden—criminal disguises, buried treasure, coded meaning, invisible particles—and thus involves modes of conjectural, hypothetical knowing, and histories of curiosity. It also involves rhetorics of evidence and practices of proof. These problems and practices are as ancient as reading—e.g. of animal tracks, and signs of divine intentions.

Detective stories as such arose in the nineteenth century, in metropolitan settings that connected police work (and its limitations) with new popular enthusiasms for comparative anatomy, Egyptology, cryptography, and other projects of reconstructive knowing. These developments were contemporaneous with the consolidation of important new modes of medical diagnosis. This course develops these historical contexts along with some critical dimensions of detective literature and films—and of medical/scientific modes of finding, knowing, and showing. Half the course hours will be shared with 8 second-year UNC medical students.

Course texts may include selections from: stories by Poe, Doyle, Dennis Potter; Benedict, Curiosity; Detienne & Vernant, Cunning Intelligence in Greek Culture and Society; Ginzburg, Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method; Gall, On the Functions of the Brain…; Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic, & The Order of Things; Benjamin and others on the flâneur; Bennett, The Birth of the Museum; Sekula, “The Body and the Archive”; Rosenheim, The Cryptographic Imagination; Muller & Richardson, The Purloined Poe; Taylor, Hiding; Peirce on abduction; Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams; Zizek, Looking Awry; Montgomery, How Doctors Think; Burney, Bodies of Evidence. (List is partial & provisional…)

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