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The Double, the Labyrinth and the Locked Room

Metaphors of Paradox in Crime Fiction and Film

Ilana Shiloh

Traditional detective fiction celebrates the victory of order and reason over the senseless violence of crime. Yet in spite of its apparent valorization of rationality, the detective genre has been associated from its inception with three paradoxical motifs – the double, the labyrinth and the locked room. Rational thought relies on binary oppositions, such as chaos and order, appearance and reality or truth and falsehood. Paradoxes subvert such customary distinctions, logically proving as true what we experientially know to be false.
The present book explores detective and crime-mystery fiction and film from the perspective of their entrenched metaphors of paradox. This new and intriguing angle yields fresh insights into a genre that has become one of the hallmarks of postmodernism.


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Endnotes 171


Endnotes Prologue Poe’s Tales of Ratiocination 1. Barzun, Jacques. “A Catalogue of Crime.” In A Jacques Barzun Reader, edited by Michael Murray. New York: HarperCollins 2002, 567–71, Quoted in Kreyling 1; Caillois, Roger, in Most and Stowe 9, Wilson, Edmund in Wink 35. 2. My interpretation is the closest to that of Todorov (70–72) who discusses the story in terms of ontological hesitation. I would like, however, to dissent from Todorov’s view of “William Wilson” as an allegory, which he defines as “a proposition with a double meaning …whose literal meaning has been entirely effaced” (62). In Poe’s tale the proposition that the second Wilson actually exists is as strong as the suggestion that he is merely the figment of the narrator’s imagination. Chapter Two Dashiel Hammet’s The Maltese Falcon 1. For a survey of the historical, social and ideological context of the hard-boiled genre see Christianson, Gilbert xxv–vii, Grella, Jameson, Malmgren 71–113, Scaggs 55–84, Symons. 2. Chandler 19. Most critics have accurately noticed that the “realism” of the hard-boiled genre is as conventional as the stylized aspect of the Golden Age fiction, although it is a convention of a different kind. 3. In the opening scene of The Big Sleep Marlowe enters the hallway of the Sternwood place, and faces “a broad stained glass panel showing a knight rescuing a lady”(5). The painting metaphorically casts the private eye as the protagonist of the chivalrous romance. 4. There is a basic similarity between the...

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