Nietzsche, Mann, and Modernism: a framework for morality in Raymond Chandler's detective fiction

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Caitlin Brooke Coulter (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Anthony Cuda

Abstract: In the wake of several newly released television detective series, there has been an increase in public discussion that centers on the dark philosophy of the hard-boiled detective. However, many of the contemporary conversations revolve around the cinematic history of film noir and the numerous philosophies it drew on or sought to counter. Scholars writing about these early noir films, which provide the basis for the contemporary detective movies and television series, argue for the impact that Modernist authors and thinkers had on them. However, the relationship between Modernism, the Gothic, and American detective fiction goes further back than the genre-changing film release of The Maltese Falcon. As one of the most celebrated and ground-breaking authors of this genre, Raymond Chandler is a necessary cornerstone upon which to build this conversation and explore the intersection of Modernism, the Gothic, and American detective fiction. This essay will look at Chandler’s impulse to question traditional morality and trace this impulse back through his education and influences to the strand of Modernism exemplified by Friedrich Nietzsche, his new philosopher, and Thomas Mann’s embodiment of his philosophy in literary fiction. This thread of Modernism works to destabilize a culturally dictated standard of morality, celebrate the philosopher-individual, and exert a clear influence on Chandler’s work and characterization of Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s iconic private detective figure. Establishing this influence is imperative to viewing Raymond Chandler’s detective fiction as the serious literature that he sought to write, and establishing the literary tradition of his moral questioning.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Detective Fiction, Friedrich Nietzsche, Modernism, Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler, Thomas Mann
Chandler, Raymond, $d 1888-1959 $x Criticism and interpretation
Detective and mystery stories, American $x History and criticism
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, $d 1844-1900 $x Influence
Mann, Thomas, $d 1875-1955 $x Influence
Marlowe, Philip $c (Fictitious character)
Moral conditions in literature

Email this document to