Agatha Christie's The Cornish Mistery and Alfred Hitchcock's The Rear Window

Agatha Christie's The Cornish Mistery and Alfred Hitchcock's The Rear Window

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Genres are far from being nominological and typological in function , but rather requires constant modification and sometimes even subversion so as to reflect certain values and ideological concerns significant in the composers context. Based on the psycholinguistic concept of prototypicality , genres can be seen as ‘fuzzy’ categories embodying formulaic conventions readily identified by audiences. However, these categories are never static. In concurring with theorist Daniel Chandler, genres holistically “change over time; the conventions of each genre shift, new genres and sub genres emerge and others are discontinued.” Crime writing is one such genre that has observed continual modification and avant-garde subversions, subsequently reinventing traditional conventions into innovative, conservative and specialist sub-genres. As a result of changes in cultures and values, the dynamic form and function of traditional crime writing has changed pari passu with the creation of new understandings of crime, new profound characteristics of the detective, contemporary definition of ‘justice’ and the reworking of the elements of the ‘whodunnit’. It is these variations and playful reworking of conventions that have developed crime-writing over-time and entertainingly engaged differing societies. Both the 1923 short story The Cornish Mystery by Agatha Christie and the 1948 film Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock bring changes to conventional crime writing and thus superbly demonstrate the extent to which crime writing has developed from traditional crime texts. By venturing to new sub genres, both composers are able to present ingrained belief systems and invigorate the modern zeitgeist.
Since the 19th century, crime writing has seen immense ...


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... the post-war western society. Along with the increasing feminization in his epoch, the 1950’s also saw male identity and masculinity at the centre of crises. By incorporating these contextual concerns, Hitchcock’s subversion adds value and integrity to his composition and allows the audience to further relate to the characters and scenario.
Clearly, crime writing is not a static concept and often requires constant modification and subsequent reinventions of traditional conventions. While traditional detective texts continue to retain their appeal, modern texts continually need to reinvent conventions within crime writing so as to “embody the crucial ideological concerns ” and appease a contemporary society. Both Rear Window and The Cornish Mystery superbly demonstrate Jane Feuer’s notion that “one theorists genre may be another’s sub genre or even super-genre.”

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