Education About Asia: Online Archives

Stories of Crime and Detection: Using the Mystery Formula as an Introduction to Asian Literatures and Cultures

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Mysteries, by which I mean stories of crime and detection, are popular in the United States— in print, movies, and on television—and familiar to many high school and college students immersed in popular media. Because they watch Law & Order and Colombo, and may have read Devil in a Blue Dress or Murder on the Orient Express, the mystery formula can engage students in Asian literatures and encourage them to analyze underlying constructs of these literatures and cultures, as well as those of their own. I have found that Chinese, Japanese, and Indian works in translation— vernacular and classical—offer palatable dishes in literature and writing classes, where I use them, alongside works of Doyle, Poe and Chandler, to teach a variety of subjects including narrative structure, dramatic technique, character, even logic—as well as to examine cross-cultural milieu and theme.