Sara Paretsky

Detective fiction as trauma literature

By Cynthia Hamilton

Sara Paretsky

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9695-2
  • Pages: 200
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: June 2015
  • BIC Category: Literature, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Literary, LITERARY CRITICISM / General, Fiction & related items / Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945), Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers
  • Series: Contemporary American and Canadian Writers


Sara Paretsky is known for her influential V.I. Warshawski series, which transformed the masculine hard-boiled detective formula into a vehicle for feminist values. But Paretsky does more than this. Her novels also illustrate the extent to which detective fiction acts as a literature of trauma, allowing Paretsky to address the politics of agency in ways that go beyond the personal, for trauma always has a social and a political dimension. Paretsky's work also exploits the way detective fiction mirrors the writing of history. Here, Paretsky uses the form to expose the partiality of historical accounts - whether they be personal, institutional, or national - that authorise 'forgetting' of a particularly insidious kind. Significantly, all these issues are explored within the framework of the traditional hard-boiled detective novel. As a result, Paretsky's achievement forces us to acknowledge the deeply subversive potential of detective fiction.


1. Repositioning the debate
2. Sexual politics and agency
3. Community and empowerment
4. Global capital and marginality
5. Destabilising the status quo


Cynthia S. Hamilton is Professor of American Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool Hope University

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