Dis Dissertation, Dat Dissertation…

Doctor, My Eyes?

There are tons of dissertations on crime fiction out there, but there are also a few by crime writers themselves. Which makes them not just P.I. Writers but Doctor P.I. Writers!

  • “The Inward Eye : A Revaluation of Coleridge’s Psychological Criticism”
    By Kenneth Millar (Ross Macdonald)
    University of Michigan
    First Published in 1951
    Lew Archer‘s creator had a PhD in Literature from the University of Michigan. His doctoral dissertation was on the psychological criticism of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
  • The Violent Hero, Wilderness Heritage and Urban Reality: A Study of the Private Eye in the novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald.” Buy this book
    By Robert B. Parker
    Boston University
    First published in 1971

    Turns out that before he created Spenser, he was doing leg work…Dr. Bob (“I have too much education”) obtained his PhD in English Literature from Boston University in 1971 based on the usual criteria, “whatever they may be.” Oh, and his dissertation, which was “submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.” Parker said of it, “it took me two weeks to write, which is about what it’s worth.”
  • “Words, Works, and Ways of Knowing: The Breakdown of Moral Philosophy in New England Before the Civil War” Buy this book  Kindle it!
    By Sara Paretsky
    University of Chicago
    First published in 2016
    Turns out V.I. Warshawski‘s creator also has a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Chicago.Her dissertation was published by the University of Chicago in 2016, and she herself described it as “an intellectual history connected to the historical importance of Protestant Christianity in American life,” in which she examines the religions born out of the Great Awakening of the 1830s and 1940s, its ties to the Abolitionist movement, and the part played by preacher Theodore Dwight Weld. There’s a great interview with Paretsky about it in The Chicago Review of Books.
  • The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hard-boiled and Film Noir  Buy this book
    By Megan E. Abbott
    New York University
    First published in 2002
    “The Street Was Mine looks to the tough guy in the works of hardboiled novelists Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep) and James M. Cain (Double Indemnity) and their popular film noir adaptations. Focusing on the way he negotiates racial and gender “otherness,” this study argues that the tough guy embodies the promise of an impervious white masculinity amidst the turmoil of the Depression through the beginnings of the Cold War. The book concludes with an analysis of Chester Himes, whose Harlem crime novels (For Love of Imabelle) unleash a ferocious revisionary critique of the tough guy tradition.” Sample chapters include “I Can Feel Her: The White Male as Hysteric in James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler,”“Another Soft-Voiced Big Man I Had Strangely Liked: Containing White Male Desire” and “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

These can’t be the only P.I. writers who wrote dissertations. So if you stumble across another, please let me know… and you can also order dissertations from ProQuest.

Respectfully compiled by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Jason Williams for hos help here.

2 thoughts on “Dis Dissertation, Dat Dissertation…

  1. Ross Macdonald (Kenneth Millar) had a PhD in Literature from the University of Michigan. Topic: Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

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