This article traces some of the fundamental poetological changes that the traditional crime novel undergoes in the work of the Swiss author Friedrich Glauser at the beginning of the 20th century. The rational-analytical, conservative approach of the criminal novel in the 19th century implied – according to Luc Boltanski – the separation of an epistemologically structured, institutionalized order of “reality” and a chaotic, unruly, unformatted “world” – a separation that is questioned, but reestablished in the dramaturgy of crime and its resolution. By shifting the attention from the logical structure of ‘whodunnit’ to the sensual material culture and “atmosphere” that surrounds actions and people, Glauser’s novels blur these epistemological and ontological boundaries. The article shows how in Die Fieberkurve, the second novel of Glauser’s famous Wachtmeister Studer-series, material and sensual substances develop a specific, powerful dynamic that dissipates, complicates, crosslinks, and confuses the objects and acts of investigation as well as its narration. The material spoors, dust, fibers, fingerprints, intoxicants and natural resources like oil and gas – which lead the investigation from Switzerland to North Africa – trigger a new sensual mode of perception and reception that replaces the reassuring criminological ideal of solution by the logic of “dissolution”. The novel thereby demonstrates the poetic impact of the slogan of modernity: matter matters.
The ambivalent status of circumstantial evidence has been intensively discussed since the 18th century, in both fiction and forensics. (Forensic) evidence is both hermeneutic and material – a phenomenon of ambiguity: the conclusions to be drawn from clues are generated by an amalgam of enlightened promises of objectivity and the opaque materiality of the surface. According to the forensic and juridical hope associated with circumstantial evidence, neutral things do not lie, but show (evidentia) as pars pro toto the actual facts in nuce. Yet every fact, every thing remains tied back to a closing instance, to the investigative and hermeneutic conclusions of thought: this opens the operational field of literature. Poetic dynamics enable literature to simultaneously cope with indexed ambiguity and indeterminacy, both by producing them, and by reflecting on them by means of detective-investigative self-observation.
Der Kopflohn (1933), an early novel by Anna Seghers, has a unique status in the field of literary investigations: it gives a literary milieu study of its time, in which the police chases a fugitive in the province of Rhine-Hesse in Germany. The implicit protagonist of the novel, however, is the emerging movement of German National Socialism. The literary investigation thus proceeds as a counter-investigation: It illuminates the spectrum of social and psychological events that take shape in light of the police investigation, and thus depicts the beginnings of fascism. The literary counter-investigation is thus not driven by a single event, but by the emergence of a social disposition. The article then shows that Seghers’ artistic mode of representation is informed by both her dissertation on Rembrandt and contemporary discussions of ‘realism’; furthermore, it argues that the novel establishes ‘counter-investigation’ as a para-genre the history of which leads up to the present, as recent films like Michael Haneke’s The white Ribbon (2009) show.
The essay focuses on the investigative methods of Forensic Architecture (FA) and in particular the architectural design tools used to build reconstructions of incidents and their spatio-temporal relations. FA’s retrospective investigation of the murder of Halit Yozgat in Kassel in 2004 spotlights the NSU complex as a composite of institutional and structural racism as well as questioning the dubious activities of the Intelligence Service in the NSU case.
The essay follows the history of tradition of the story The Blind Witness, from the publication in François Richer’s Causes célèbres and the subsequent inclusion in the Neuer Pitaval, to its previous iterations reaching back to the 16th century. Starting from this historical-comparative perspective, the interdependencies of investigative representations and criminal procedure codes are traced, with special attention paid to the various writing practices within the framework of criminal procedure since the 17th century. Taking Georg Philipp Harsdörffer’s version of The Blind Witness as part of his collections of crime narratives as an example, the article suggests that the demand for truth or truthfulness made by the juridical orders of writing of the time endows several forms of modern narratives with a reflection on the theory of representation.