United by the Ocean? The Romantic Conan Doyle and the Transatlantic Sherlock Holmes


Jacek Mydla

Department of Literary and Cultural Theory, Institute of English Cultures and Literatures, University of Silesia

Biographers  describe  Sir  Arthur  Conan  Doyle  as  a  ‘Briton enchanted by America’. His letter ‘England and America’ has been  called  a  ‘plea  for  Britons  to  understand  the  American  point  of  view’.  ACD  entertained  utopian  (which  is  not to  say, silly) ideas about the English-speaking part of the world, which made him make efforts to overcome mutual prejudices and to bring the English and the American nations together in terms of friendship. This despite the fact that he had reasons to feel sore due to literary piracies committed against him by American publishers. ACD’s  fascination  with  merica—which  was  for  him, in his own words, a land ‘full of romance’ shows in his greatest and enduring literary achievement: the Sherlock Holmes stories. Already the first of them, ‘A Study in Scarlet’, which in 1887 gave literary life to the now world-famous consulting detective, is set for a significant part of the plot in the U.S. But  ‘transatlantic’  motifs  occur  also  in  other  stories,  most famously in ‘The Five Orange Pips’ (1891), ‘The Yellow Face’ (1893), and ‘The Dancing Men’ (1903). Besides this, a number of other stories contain the motifs and tropes of sea/ocean/voyaging as leading ones, e.g. The story with a ‘whaling’ motif: ‘The Black Peter’.For  ACD  America  was  a  land  on  which  he  projected, as the ‘American’ and ‘voyaging’ stories make evident, his major political and ideological concerns, such as those with justice and equality. In the paper, special attention is paid to the way in which in some of the stories the ocean (also: a sea and a river) features as something like a protagonist, even as one who administers justice and settles other types of account.

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Published : 2014-05-15

MydlaJ. (2014). United by the Ocean? The Romantic Conan Doyle and the Transatlantic Sherlock Holmes. Review of International American Studies, 7(1). Retrieved from https://www.journals.us.edu.pl/index.php/RIAS/article/view/4054

Jacek Mydla  jacek.mydla@us.edu.pl
Department of Literary and Cultural Theory, Institute of English Cultures and Literatures, University of Silesia  Poland
Jacek  Mydla  is  Associate  Professor  at  the  Institute  of  English  Cultures and Literatures (University of Silesia, Katowice and Sosnowiec, Poland). Currently, he is Director of the Institute. He conducts research and lectures in the history of British literature, specifically British drama (Shakespeare through  romanticism),  Gothic  fiction  and  drama,  and  theory  of  narrative. His book-length publications are: the Dramatic Potential of Time in Shakespeareand Spectres of Shakespeare, a study of appropriations of Shakespeare’s drama by early English Gothic authors and playwrights. Also, recently he has published a collection of essays on the dynamics of human time in Shakespeare. In his recent articles, in Polish and English, Mydla has been concerned with romantic drama (e.g. Scottish playwright Joanna Baillie), aspects of British empiricism in the eighteenth century, and the supernatural in fiction.

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