restricted access Whispers of Norbury: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Modernist Crisis of Racial (Un)Detection

This study examines Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the "Superman" detective Sherlock Holmes, and his anxieties of race detection. Experiencing a racial crisis upon meeting Henry Highland Garnet, a former African American abolitionist, I argue that Doyle's failure and anxiety in detecting race and his consequent popularization of detective fiction (which, significantly, utilizes an "exact science" of detection) reveal that the emergence of the detective fiction genre is in direct response to the threat of racial passing. This is further evidenced through "The Yellow Face," a story of race passing in which Holmes is confronted with one of his rare cases of failed detection. As a result, I show that the fear of "racechange" witnessed in both Doyle's life and fiction emphasizes that one cannot look at the politics of passing without a wider examination into the genre of detection.