WiSe 14/15: S-Introduction to Cultural StudiesII: Espionage in Film and Fiction
Andrew James Johnston
Espionage fiction and film are often seen as typically British genres. And it is certainly true that many of the best-known and earliest examples of espionage novels were written by British authors ... read more
Espionage fiction and film are often seen as typically British genres. And it is certainly true that many of the best-known and earliest examples of espionage novels were written by British authors and that the world of espionage film has strongly been informed by the plot structures, themes and stereotypes developed in British espionage fiction. This has a lot to do with history: the first modern spy novels appeared in the two decades preceding the First World War, a period when the rivalries of an increasingly international capitalism and the visible and invisible power struggles between the major players of global imperialism began to undermine the supposedly stable confidence that the British middle classes had displayed during the Victorian era. Hence, from its very inception the genre of espionage fiction betrays an obsession with the dark side of Western modernity. Often presented in the guise of mere popular entertainment, espionage novels frequently probe the limits of genre fiction and display curious affinities with the aesthetic developments to be found in more highbrow fiction. Similar things can be observed in espionage movies which, under the veneer of the superficially adventurous, question the cultural distinctions that constitute the very basis of the concept of adventure.
This course will trace some of the more important strands of espionage fiction and film and seek to unravel the discursive and aesthetic structures and traditions that have shaped some of the better-known examples of the genre(s).
Students are required to buy and read the following novels/collections of short stories BEFORE the course starts:
John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps, 1915
William Somerset Maugham, Ashenden: Or the British Agent, 1928
Ian Fleming, From Russia with Love, 1957
John Le Carré, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, 1963
Furthermore, students are advised to familiarize themselves with the following films BEFORE the course starts:
The Lady Vanishes, dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1938
North by Northwest, dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1959
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2011