Detecting World-Literature: (Sub-)Urban Crimes in the Nineteenth Century

  • Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee


In ‘The Slaughterhouse of Literature’, Franco Moretti argues that literary devices such as clues develop under the simultaneous pressure of external factors such as advances in forensic science, and internal ones like the ‘morphological circle of virtue’ these devices create by making every part of a narrative interesting and significant. In this chapter, I will critically examine Moretti’s claims by proposing a relationship between the urban development (an ‘external’ factor) during the global nineteenth-century and the ways in which devices such as clues were used in detective fiction written in the ‘core’ and ‘semi-peripheral’ zones of the world-system. By comparing the stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle and Priyanath Mukherjee, I will argue that the differences and similarities in the nature and use of clues point to the singular, unequal, and uneven nature of modernity. The ‘morphological circle of virtue’ created by such narratives may in the final instance then depend on the degree to which they register this historical reality and in so doing become ‘world-literary’ phenomena.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickCoventryUK

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