Podcasting Sherlock Holmes (ENGL 200C Fall 2019)

Matt Poland (mjpoland at uw dot edu)
MTuWTh 11:30-12:20
Smith 407
Office hours: M 12:30-1:30 (PDL B5E), Th 12:30-1:30 (Suzzallo Espresso) or by appointment

N.B.: The most up-to-date information about this course can be found on the class site.

Course Description

This course will focus on two popular forms of “new” media: the podcast in the 2010s, and the detective story in the 1890s. We will use one to explore the other by writing, researching, and recording podcast episodes that explore the universe of Sherlock Holmes, one of the world literature’s best-known characters.

In this class, we will read and discuss short stories, investigating the features of recorded language in order to understand the many possible ways it can be made effectively expressive. We will implement this knowledge by making a podcast, developing compositional skills that address particular audiences and situations but also can be generalized across situations and media. These podcast episodes will require the same level of rigorous analysis, planning, and composition more conventional essay assignments would. By learning how to craft this particular form, you will develop habits that help you communicate in different academic and professional settings.

The podcast and the detective story both try to make sense of their audiences’ feelings of living in a busy, confusing world. Podcasts are modular and mobile: we take them with us and tune in to short bursts of information or storytelling which fit in to our hectic lives. They use particular narrative and rhetorical tools to create an identity that persists across episodes, and the intimacy of human voices to engage their audiences. Similarly, detective stories originated in a complex, overpopulated media environment, and had to find ways to stand out. Victorians are now associated with stern moralizing (unfairly – somewhat). But in their moment, they were intensely self-conscious about being modern. The residents of Victorian London lived at the center of the first fully industrialized society and an expansive empire. They had a sense of the time they lived in as distinct from the past and oriented toward an exciting, sometimes frightening, future.

Who better to help us investigate these worlds than Sherlock Holmes? His cases reflect on and respond to the complexities of modern existence. His methods also translate across different time periods and contexts, and have been adapted into every subsequent media form. We will join in by discussing the stories, refining your reading and analytical skills. Our podcast will build on our discussions and generate new ideas for class. To help the process, you will write brief analyses of a podcast you subscribe to and respond to your classmates’ reflections.

Required Materials

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Stories with Illustrations from the ‘Strand’ Magazine (Wordsworth Editions, ISBN 9781840220766)


Podcast Discussion Blogs

(Each post 1000 words minimum; each response 250 words minimum)

In order to familiarize yourself with podcasts as a narrative form and the creative choices podcasters make, you will be required to subscribe to a podcast of your choosing, write short reflection pieces on its arc throughout the quarter, and respond to your classmates’ reflections. Your chosen podcast can be nonfictional or fictional, but should be intrinsically based on storytelling (as opposed to informational or pure entertainment: news or comedy quiz podcasts won’t serve your purpose). Your reflection should 1) very briefly describe what the podcast is about, 2) analytically discuss the narrative features of individual episodes (think about the relationship between the content and the way it is communicated to the listener: what techniques do the podcasters use to make the story compelling?) and the ways links between each episode are created to trigger the listener’s memory and create a consistent identity. (This should go deeper than “the same person always narrates the podcast.”)

Story Analysis Podcast Episode (in pairs)

In this first episode, you and a partner from your recording group will discuss one of the Sherlock Holmes stories which we aren’t reading in class. Each of you will share an individual close reading of the story (5 minutes each) and then discuss the story and your analyses together, using our class discussions as a model.

Adaptation Podcast Episode (groups)

This group podcast episode will consider Sherlock Holmes adaptations of your choice. Your group discussion should identify specific ways these adaptations follow, resist, or transform narrative elements of the original stories, and analyze why the creators make the choices they do given cultural context and formal considerations (e.g., short story vs. movie or comic book). Each group member will then provide more detailed 5-7 minute analysis of their chosen adaptation. Citations for the sources used should be included in the shownotes for the episode and follow MLA guidelines (to be discussed in class).

Narrative Podcast Episode (groups)

Think of this episode as a comprehensive guide to a Sherlock Holmes story. Your group will read ahead in an upcoming story we will read in class. As a group, you will identify and discuss major features of the story: the narrative tools used to make a compelling detective story, and how they relate to the other stories we’ve read so far. You will also discuss cultural and historical context in terms of this story’s publication and particular references in the story which a new reader (like your classmates) might be unfamiliar with. Finally, each group member will provide a detailed individual analysis of a feature of the story (5-8 minutes each). Citations for the sources used should be included in the shownotes for the episode and follow MLA guidelines (to be discussed in class).

Individual Wrap-Up Recording

For the last episode of our podcast, each person should record a 5-7 minute discussion of the experience of this course as a whole (discussions, podcasting, reading Sherlock Holmes), reflecting on what it has taught you about narrative forms, how they work, and why they matter.



Disclaimer: Please complete the specified reading before class. Also, plans for class sessions and readings are subject to change. Changes will be addressed in class. If you’re unsure, ask the instructor.

Week 1

W 9/25 Introductions & syllabus

Th 9/26 A Study in Scarlet, ch. 1-2; Short Radio Intros

Week 2

M 9/30 A Study in Scarlet, ch. 3-7; “Serial” podcast season 1 episodes 1-3; Googling the Victorians

Tu 10/1 A Study in Scarlet, ch. 8-11

Podcast Discussion Blog Entry 1 due Tuesday (10/1)

W 10/2 A Study in Scarlet, ch. 12-14 (end); “A Study in Pink” (Sherlock BBC series episode [Netflix])

Th 10/3 “The Five Orange Pips”

Podcast Discussion Blog Response 1 due Friday (10/4)

Week 3

M 10/7 “The Gloria Scott,” “The Red-Headed League”

Tu 10/8 “A Scandal in Bohemia,” story and Granada TV episode adaptation (starring Jeremy Brett [YouTube])

W 10/9 “A Case of Identity”

Pair Story Analysis episode due Wednesday (10/9)

Th 10/10 “The Man with the Twisted Lip”; revisit discussion guidelines

Week 4

M 10/14 “The Speckled Band”; M.R. James, “O Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad” (pdf)

Tu 10/15 “The Crooked Man”

W 10/16 Podcast work day (bring your laptops!)

Groups 1 and 2 Adaptation episode due Wednesday (10/16)

Th 10/17 NO CLASS: Matt at NAVSA conference

Groups 3 and 4 Narrative episode due Friday (10/18)

Week 5

M 10/21 “The Devil’s Foot”

Tu 10/22 “The Dying Detective”

W 10/23 The Sign of Four, ch. 1-3

Groups 5 and 6 Adaptation episode due Wednesday (10/23)

Th 10/24 The Sign of Four, ch. 4-6

Groups 7 and 8 Narrative episode due Friday (10/25)

Week 6

M 10/28 The Sign of Four, ch. 7-9

Podcast Discussion Blog Entry 2 due Monday (10/28)

Tu 10/29 The Sign of Four, ch. 10-12 (end)

W 10/30 “The Creeping Man”

Groups 9 and 10 Adaptation episode due Wednesday (10/30)

Podcast Discussion Blog Responses 2 due Wednesday (10/30)

Th 10/31 “The Cardboard Box”

Week 7

M 11/4 “The Norwood Builder”

Tu 11/5 “The Priory School”

W 11/6 “The Musgrave Ritual”

Groups 1 and 2 Narrative episode due Wednesday (11/6)

Th 11/7 “The Dancing Men”

Groups 3 and 4 Adaptation episode due Friday (11/8)

Week 8

M 11/11 “Silver Blaze”

Tu 11/12 “The Greek Interpreter”

W 11/13 “The Naval Treaty”; Neil Gaiman, “A Study in Emerald” (pdf)

Groups 5 and 6 Narrative episode due Wednesday (11/13)

Th 11/14 “The Bruce Partington Plans”

Groups 7 and 8 Adaptation episode due Friday (11/15)

Week 9

M 11/18 “The Second Stain”

Tu 11/19 “The Golden Pince-Nez”

W 11/20 “The Final Problem”

Groups 9 and 10 Narrative due Wednesday (11/20)

Th 11/21 “The Empty House”; They Might Be Giants film discussion

Week 10

M 11/25 “His Last Bow”

Tu 11/26 The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch. 1-3

W 11/27 The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch. 4-7

Th 11/28 NO CLASS: Happy Thanksgiving!

Week 11

M 12/2 The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch. 8-11

Tu 12/3 The Hound of the Baskervilles, ch. 12-15 (end)

W 12/4 Concluding discussion part 1; catch-up session

Th 12/5 Concluding discussion part 2; course evaluations

Finals Week

Wrap-Up Recordings due Wednesday, 12/11 (11:59pm)


The design of this course is especially indebted to Courtney Floyd, Jesse Oak Taylor, and Elliott Stevens.