Sherlock Holmes: Class, Mass Media, and Urban Life

Sherlock Holmes, illustration by Sidney Paget

Sherlock Holmes, illustration by Sidney Paget

My project discusses the importance of mass media, urban culture, and middle class pursuits in the formation and reception of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. This genre, the serial short story, was formed out of the growing mass media culture of the nineteenth century. I begin my project with information on the background of detective fiction and sensational publications in general, and then I present the specifics associated with catering tastes according to class. Doyle himself mastered this strategy by writing specifically for The Strand, a magazine that prided itself in associating with England’s growing middle class. Like all of the content in The Strand, Doyle’s Holmes stories were written explicitly for entertainment purposes. However, they masqueraded as more intellectual works because they lacked the sensationalism that marked earlier forms of entertainment, such as penny dreadfuls and broadsides. Doyle also drew heavily from his own background in the medical field and his interest in science when creating Sherlock Holmes, a true analyst who used modern scientific thought to solve crimes, sometimes even in ways that police forces had yet to adopt.

For my research, I used a compilation of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes as my main primary source. I also used several books and articles on the background of Victorian media and developments in nineteenth-century criminology.

My articles can be read independently, but they do follow a chronological order that is best preserved if they are read in the way I present them (by topic and subtopic).


project concept map

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