Last year, after enrolling in an undergraduate course on women mystery writers, my interest in that very genre was peaked. Since then I have become an avid reader of all types of mystery fiction, but especially those novels written by women and portraying a female investigator. As late as the eighteenth century writing was considered an unlikelyand inappropriate pursuit for a woman, just as investigating crimes was considered an unusual and "unsuitable job for a woman" as recently as the late twentieth century. Many women writers, from Agatha Christie to Sue Grafton, have created strong, outspoken and independent detectives who are able to retain their femininity while succeeding in a male-dominated career.
These female characters are an inspiration and encouragement to me and many other women who choose to succeed in modern societies. Throughout the duration of this research project, I hope to explore the history of the woman-oriented mystery novel as well as the social reasons for the genres rapid growth and successful merger into mainstream detective fiction. In meeting these two goals, I hope to gain a fuller understanding of my goals and motivations as a modern woman, and in a more practical sense, to refine my skills as a researcher in an area which I believe will only gain in social importance and popularity.
To gather enough information to fully explore my chosen subject, it will be necessary to spend an immense amount of time searching for and evaluating both paper and electronic sources. The planning process of the project will include library and online research to gather information, careful recording of facts and theories already established in the subject area, refining the direction of my own thoughts and research, and finally organizing the project in writing. The library at Indiana State University will be a primary and invaluable resource during the research and planning of my project, and I foresee many hours spent searching the stacks, computer catalog and online databases it has available.
As I stated before, I have a keen interest in the genre, and mainly for entertainment purposes. As it is a growing genre in literature, and I am seeking a degree in English,the project is also of interest to me in an educational and professional arena. Socially, the genre illustrates the emergence of women into non-traditional fields of employment and the tensions that can develop when social roles and personal identity based on gender are confronted and discarded in a fictional setting. This very occurence is now, and has been for some time, happening in the real world. As one of many women who is inundating the previously male-dominated shores of Academia, I can somewhat relate to the sense of not-belonging the female characters of feminist mystery fiction almost always feel.
I believe this project will be relatively easy to research due to the abundance of material available. Several collections of essays about women mystery writers and their creations are available in Indiana State University's library, while several more articles have been found through online databases like INSPIRE, JSTOR, Humanities Index, and MLA Bibiliography. James Harner lists several reference sources in his Literary Research Guide that I shall try to locate and put to use.
The essay collections abovementioned are excellent proof that there is at least a public interest and social appreciation of the genre. However, the sheer volume of primary works--the novels themselves--being published today shows that any new material on the subject of feminist mystery fiction is desired and immensely welcome. The fact that there are at least ten relevant reference books available on women in literature and/or mystery fiction indicates that the academic world has taken enough interest in the genre to attempt to provide adequate reference to scholarly works, such as journals, encyclopedias and various electronic sources. The volume of work available to research shows that the scholars, as well as the general public, are at least discussing the subject, and are open to fresh ideas.