The Secret Marriage of Sherlock Holmes and Other Eccentric Readings

Michael Atkinson

Applies a range of postmodern literary approaches to Conan Doyle's classic stories


The Secret Marriage of Sherlock Holmes is about reading, a process that we take for granted. But Sherlock Holmes, the cultural icon to whose exploits Michael Atkinson gives new readings, became famous by taking nothing for granted. Holmes's adventures can be read in new ways, including ways that he himself would have found startling, but which can give contemporary readers satisfaction. In clear, accessible prose that will engage specialists and lay readers alike, Atkinson engages in "a series of flirtations" with nine of Arthur Conan Doyle's favorite detective fictions, using the tools of modern literary theory, from depth psychology to deconstruction. Bluebeard, the kundalini serpent, and Conan Doyle's mother pop up alongside Jung, Nietzsche, and Derrida as guides to new understandings of these classic stories. Just as Holmes uses treatises on tobacco ash and tattoos to give fresh readings to puzzling facts, Atkinson employs widely different critical strategies to unravel the mysteries of reading itself.

Michael Atkinson is Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Cincinnati.

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Praise / Awards

  • "Atkinson demonstrates a love and knowledge of the Holmes stories. . . I would recommend The Secret Marriage of Sherlock Holmes enthusiastically to any lover of the Canon who is prepared to have their perceptions widened."
    ---Mystery Writers of America

  • "What a delightful book! This is surely the most interesting writing you will ever read about Sherlock Holmes, but it is much more. Michael Atkinson gives us literary criticism at its best; the sheer fun of watching a bold and imaginative reader breathe into well-loved, but well-worn, fictions new and enchanting life. Atkinson's mind races as nimbly as Holmes' own, and he makes the stories our hansom cab through human nature itself. A tour de force!"
    ---Norman Holland, University of Florida, author of Murder in a Delphi Seminar

  • "A work of pedagogic brilliance--never obfuscatory, never decorative. I cannot imagine anyone reading this book and not wanting to read another. Is that not a sufficient reason for criticism?"
    ---Richard Howard, University of Houston

  • "A dazzling tour de force of literary criticism written with considerable eloquence and erudition, that should find a wide audience inside and outside academia. A witty and shrewd investigation of detective fiction. "
    ---Robert Polito, New School for Social Research

  • "...[T]he approach of this book will delight readers of the Sherlock Holmes stories."
    ---J.F. O'Malley, Choice

  • "A book that speaks directly to readers. . . Atkinson sees far beneath the surface of the Sherlock stories to provide fascinating commentary."
    ---Cincinnati Post

  • ". . . easily refutes the widely-held belief that pop-cult lit-crit must be deadly dull and packed with academic jargon. The eccentric aspect of his approaches to nine Canonical stories is that he offers an intriguing starting-point for his discussion of each story. . . ."
    ---Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press

  • Winner of the Edgar Award of the Mystery Writers of America for best critical work

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 208pp.
  • 3 B&W photographs.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08566-8

Add to Cart
  • $28.95 U.S.

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