Nature of our Digital Project

According to TS Eliot The Moonstone, is  the first, longest, and greatest of all English detective novels” (Eliot). When Collins first outlined The Moonstone detective fiction was not as widespread as it is today. Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were all important writers of genre. With that in mind, we decided to look back and see if Edgar Allan Poe’s  short mystery stories had a direct influence on Collins or Conan Doyle. Although Poe did not write the same kind of full-length novel as Collins or Conan Doyle he did help plant the initial seeds of detective fiction. After Poe came Collins and Conan Doyle all with their own respective contributions. As A.E. Murch explains, Poe, Collins and Conan Doyle are all “famous names that are important landmarks in the evolution of the genre” (9). For more information please see Wikipedia-Detective Fiction

Using this kind of background information we decided use the algorithmic criticism tools we learned about in our Digital Humanities class to test the connection between selected texts and these mystery writers. We wanted to use both distant readings and close readings to investigate these texts and discover any underlying connections. Following are some of the questions we were concerned with:


  • How did these authors influence one another? Are there similarities of characters or circumstances between the texts?
  • Are Collins and Doyle more similar to each other than to Poe (being British, rather than American)?
  • Being detective fiction, how is the search for truth conducted? Are problems solved rationally and scientifically, rather than emotionally or sentimentally?

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