This study is an original contribution to nineteenth-century literary and cultural studies in its methodology, its subject matter, and its vision of detective fiction. It engages in a form of intellectual palaeontology, tracing the genealogy of a genre through a model based on the Origin of Species read as a form of postmodern historiography. It places detective fiction within the context of popular scientific texts by John Pringle Nichol, Robert Chambers, Winwood Reade, and John Tyndall, as well as the writings of Charles Lyell, Charles Darwin and Thomas Huxley. Frank does not treat detective fiction only as the symptom of a prevailing ideology, but investigates it as a genre promoting a secular worldview in a time of competing visions of the universe and the human situation. Such an approach necessitates close readings of scientific and literary texts that, through explicit and implicit allusions to cosmology, philology, geology, paleontology, archaeology, and evolutionary biology, reveal their ultimate seriousness and heterodoxy.

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