Tag Article List: adaptation

Applications in the Classroom: Hardly Elementary—Frontiers for Freshman Composition with Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet

Kate M. Donley
Norwich University
Northfield, Vermont, USA



Three recent television and film adaptations testify to the continuing popularity of Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective Sherlock Holmes. The fast-paced novella that introduces detective duo Holmes and Watson, A Study in Scarlet involves some astonishing elements, and not just in the plot. With just a little probing, collegiate readers may wonder whether Conan Doyle plagiarized his most famous character, invented forensic science, despised Mormons, and accidentally wrote a Western.

The novel was adapted as A Study in Pink, the first episode of the BBC’s series Sherlock created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. Their vision of Holmes set in present-day London will thrill students and also leave them wondering what happened to the second half of the novel. Beyond the predictable (yet exciting) classroom discussion topic of adaptation, A Study in Scarlet presents a rich context for research and discussion by challenging students’ modern-day notions of genre, historical truth, political correctness, and academic credibility. Although this novel is well-suited for high-level secondary or freshman composition classes, advanced students of English literature will find much to explore. This book analysis contains a summary of A Study in Scarlet with explication of its literary features and associated pedagogical issues for the freshman composition class. Topics for more advanced students are also identified. Instructors can make a free virtual casebook of ancillary readings with the Internet links provided.


Keywords: college composition, first-year writing, freshman composition, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet, detective fiction, adaptation, pseudo-scholarship, fanfiction

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