Author Archive

A Little Laugh: Elementary, My Dear Data!

Written by Ashley Robinson on . Posted in News Feed


Star Trek and Sherlock Holmes…a match made in space? Apparently. You can check out the unlikely crossover on the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (episode 3, available on Netflix Instant).  If you watch closely, you’ll see references to A Study in Scarlet, “The Final Problem,” and “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

Who knew that Holmes would be quite so popular in the future?

Benedict Cumberbatch: One of Time’s Most Influential People

Written by Ashley Robinson on . Posted in News Feed

Who knew?

Who knew?

For those Cumberbatch fans out there, you’ll be happy to know that the rest of the world recognizes his phenomenal cheekbones, too. He was recently named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” to which actor Colin Firth responded, “He must be stopped.”

That’s okay, Colin. You will always be the Mr. Darcy of our hearts.

Rough Draft and Rubric for Paper 3

Written by Ashley Robinson on . Posted in Assignments

Like I mentioned in class, you’ll need to have two printed copies of your rough draft in class on Monday, April 28th.  Your rough draft should meet the following criteria:

  • It should be 2.5 pages long, minimum
  • It should have a complete argument.

If your written section isn’t a completed argument, make sure to flesh out the rest as an outline.  As always, the more complete your draft, the better feedback you’ll receive.

Additionally, you can click here to download the peer review/grading rubric.  Taking a glance over this might help you as you write your essay.

Resources: The Mystery of Richard Lancelyn Green

Written by Ashley Robinson on . Posted in Resources


The Sherlockian, an incredibly popular reimaginging of Arthur Conan Doyle’s life, was based on true crime.  Richard Lancelyn Green, one of the foremost Sherlockian scholars, was strangled with his own shoelace in 2004.  If you’re interested in learning more about Green’s case, you can check out David Grann’s brief article “Mysterious Circumstances” or Sarah Lyall’s “The Curious Incident of the Boxes.” 


Blog 3: Sample Blog Post 2

Written by Ashley Robinson on . Posted in Sample Blogs

Holmes and his Addiction

In their article, “Addiction, Empire, and Narrative in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four,” Christopher Keep and Don Randall relate the second Sherlock Holmes novel to a variety of topics relevant during the Victorian era. Among these, the authors discuss the image of the British Empire, how their drug exportation affects this image, what Sherlock Holmes represents with regard to this, and the overall impact of addictive substances on the British colonial holdings. Keep and Randall accomplish this mighty task with for major punctures, humorously referred to as punctures.

The first puncture, as the authors state immediately, serves to “connect addiction to the policing of otherness that occurs through the science of deduction” (Keep and Randall 209). In layman’s terms, Keep and Randall aim to reveal what Holmes’ drug use says about his character. Keep and Randall use quotes from the book to describe Holmes’ cocaine use as necessary to keep his mind exalted during the periods of intense boredom when there is not a case to solve. More importantly, the paragraph begins references to influences of the Orient on London. This specifically occurs when the authors discuss Watson’s interchangeable understanding of opium and cocaine. Although vastly different in origin and composition, the doctor speaks of them as if they both hail from Britain’s eastern holdings (Keep and Randall 308-211).

The second puncture addresses the image of the British Empire. Keep and Randall claim that the references to the India mutiny bring up the intense challenge to the colonial authority of the British Empire accompanied by the brief uprising. The references, according to the authors, furthermore dramatize the orientalness of parts of London, exacerbated by Holmes and Watson’s trip to an undesirable oriental neighborhood of the great city (Keep and Randall 211-214).

Tonga as portrayed in an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes' The Sign of Four

Tonga as portrayed in an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes’ The Sign of Four

(Courtesy of:

The third puncture relates the character Tonga and his grotesque body to the racial makeup of London. Essentially, each of the characters associated with the orient have some sort of grotesque facial or body feature. The author describes the character as having a mix of features present in both animals and cocaine addicts, thus continuing the connection between cocaine and the Middle East (Keep and Randall 214-216).  Lastly, the fourth puncture discusses the ending of The Sign of Four. The authors make claims that because the savage, Tonga, and the Agra treasure continue to lie at the bottom of the River Thames they will forever remain a part of the city. More metaphorically, the Middle Eastern influences from the empires colonial holdings will forever remain.  The authors go even further in their comparison of the river Thames as a gateway between the great city of London and the empire (Keep and Randall 216-219).

To read this article for yourself visit the following link: “Addiction, Empire, and Narrative…”.

Christopher Keep and Don Randall’s article makes several great points with regards to the underlying meaning of The Sign of Four. Imperialism and its effects on society was a huge topic of discussion during the Victorian Era. With British holdings approaching one fourth of the world, the issue was even more important to the citizens of the empire. The series of punctures described by Randall and Keep each bring out excellent points. In the first, the paragraph describing Holmes drug addiction, the authors do a fair job creating their point. One can easily imagine Sherlock Holmes’ mind being in such need of excitement that the great detective would stoop to using cocaine as an alternative. The point regarding Watson and his description of cocaine and heroin as being similar is even more brilliant. This paragraph resonates because it is entirely true. During the Victorian Era, drugs were viewed as a poison from the East, no matter if the particular drug actually originated in Canada. The same can be seen in modern society in the treatment of those from the Middle East, especially since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Overall, the points made are excellent and contribute to the overall idea of the article.

During the third puncture, the authors bring up another great point involving Tonga, the little savage from the story. This one remains memorable due to its use of character symbolism, my favorite tool for literary analysis. Their point about the grotesque facial features is an excellent one. Described with “a great misshapen head” and “glow[ing]…eyes” (qtd from Keep and Randall 214), Tonga can easily creep out any reader. This is why the symbolism works. The mix of features between and animals and cocaine addicts is perfectly reasonable. The similarities further the connection between cocaine addicts and the empire’s oriental holdings.

My favorite, and by far the best argument presented is the last puncture. Keep and Randall remark upon the symbolism of the river Thames and more importantly, what lies at the bottom. During the final moments of the novel, Tonga joins the Agra treasure at the bottom of the Thames. This, the authors claim, represents the everlasting presence of the Orient in Britain (Keep and Randall 216). This symbolism works perfectly because the mud of the river claims both Tonga and the treasure forever. These things will never move from their final resting places, therefore they represent the continuous presence of the East. The author’s extrapolation of this symbolism works as well. The River Thames serves as the main entryway to London. Therefore, a pertinent symbol of the Empire’s oriental holdings lying at the bottom of this entryway perfectly represents an entryway into the Middle East.

Apart from the decent points created in the series of punctures, this article has a severe flow problem. To the reader, most of the points get bogged down in a mass of quotes and summaries of other works. One also gets the distinct feeling of a lack of overall thesis. The excellent points brought up during the article do not seemed to ever be connected in a clear manner. Yet, the nice quality of the individual points almost negates this shortcoming in Keep and Randall’s article.

Although this article makes several good points about the individual symbolic pieces in The Sign of Four, it has several shortcomings with regard to the thesis. The individual punctures, at times, do little to back up the thesis of the article. Keep and Randall’s article is certainly worth reading for the individual points which allow a greater understanding of symbolism in The Sign of Four.

Article by N. Herringer 

Blog 3: Sample Blog Post

Written by Ashley Robinson on . Posted in Sample Blogs

From Dainty to Bloody

            Throughout the last two centuries, women in literature have personified what it means for women of the real world to exist in their respective societies. From being feminine and delicate to cunning and crafty, women in literary works have run the gamut of characteristics and motives that have defined what means to be a member of the female gender. In Hadar Aviram’s essay, “Dainty Hands: Perceptions of Women and Crime in Sherlock Holmes Stories,” Aviram goes through a great deal of effort to describe and statistically analyze  different women and their various modus operandi in Conan Doyle’s Sherlockian canon.


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A few of Aviram’s central themes are as follows:

  •  The traditional perception among criminologists has been that crime is and always has been a predominantly male phenomenon.
  •  Women are likely to be treated with “chivalry” in situations in which they conform to feminine stereotypes.
  •  Women were not always a rare phenomenon on the criminal stage.
  • One of the most important side effects of the Industrial Revolution was greater differentiation in gender roles. Women were pushed away from the public market, which involved primarily low-wage labor, toward the home, or sex-segregated industries, such as women-only textile factories. This transformation imbued the home with symbolism of feminine delicacy, romantic love, spiritual cultivation, and maternal nurturing, the Victorian “cult” of domesticity.
  •  18th century female characters were often independent and entrepreneurial woman, whereas 19th century female characters who were powerless to effectuate their own destiny despite her strong sense of personal responsibility. This literary shift reflected a broad cultural shift in the understanding of criminal responsibility in general and female criminality in particular.
  •  Novels of the late 18th to early 19th century were aimed at moralizing the working class while the ethos of feminine delicacy was developed by and for the middle classes and designed to bleed into the lower classes.
  •  Conan Doyle wrote stories about women who were brave in the late 1890s, then stopped writing about them after the 1900s.
  •  All of Conan Doyle’s female characters are either praised or reviled upon the solving of their crimes.
  •  The various characteristics that Conan Doyle ascribes to his female characters are true for both the criminals and the non-criminals.
  •  Women of Conan Doyle’s, as well as most other Victorian works, were defined by their relationships to the men in their lives; they are captives, protectors, muses, or co-entrepreneurs with them.
  •  The rise of positivism in literature and Victorian era life in general, as well as the medicalization of crime in particular, is a valuable lens for understanding the current criminal justice policies toward women. (Aviram 2013)

Video and Film

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To be an essay centered around analyzing crime stories and their effect on society, Aviram spends a great deal of time avoiding using the “F” word. Though Aviram subtly attacks the underlying principles behind anti-feminism by pointing out the flaws in female characters contrived by men, she does make a few points that are worth acknowledging. Perceived crime rates among women were never high in the 18th and 19th centuries. If ever a woman stepped out of line, she was simply thrown into a sanitarium and left for dead. So, logically, one could assume that though the crime rates weren’t high for women, the number of the institutionalized was considerably higher during this time.

Also, when reading this essay, it’s important to offer kudos to Aviram for pointing out the fact that authors during the 18th and 19th centuries spent a great deal of their time crafting their works to speak to specific demographics. A wealthy author would right stories that they knew their fellow wealthy and semi-wealthy masses would be able to easily identify with. By identifying with a particular class and instilling their message through their work, authors were capable of influencing the much larger classes of individuals who weren’t able to read their works through social osmosis. In a world without televisions and social networks, the written word was the key to societal change.

Though I’m not a woman and I’m not particularly interested in the history of women’s struggles, I am a criminologist and I can appreciate the views of a woman who has taken the time to dig into the history has shaped our society. To be able quantify the actual number of times a woman was created by Conan Doyle and quickly see her identifying attributes on a well labeled chart, Aviram has me impressed. Not only did she actually investigate her source material to gather history on her subject, she also took the time to explain and qualify her conclusions. I highly recommend her article to any Sherlockian, Criminologist, or Sociologist with a weakness for socially constructed female gender.

My Rating: Stars: Great Read!


 Aviram, Hadar. “Dainty Hands: Perceptions Of Women And Crime In Sherlock Holmes Stories.” Hastings Women’s Law Journal 22.2 (2011): 233-256. Index to Legal Periodicals & Books Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 20 Apr. 2013.


Article written by W. Nash