Professor Emeritus David Bordwell Shortlisted for Mystery Writers of America Award

David Bordwell, Jacques Ledoux Professor Emeritus of Film Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and esteemed film theorist, has been recognized for his outstanding contribution to the world of mystery writing. His latest work, Perplexing Plots: Popular Storytelling and the Poetics of Murder, published by Columbia University Press, has been shortlisted for the Best Critical/Biographical award in the Mystery Writers of America competition.

Perplexing PlotsIn Perplexing Plots, Bordwell challenges the notion that narrative innovation is exclusive to avant-garde art, showcasing how unconventional storytelling techniques have been ingrained in American popular culture. From nonlinear timelines to multiple points of view and unreliable narration, Bordwell explores how crime fiction, theater, and films have played a pivotal role in making these narrative techniques mainstream.

The book takes readers on a journey through the evolution of storytelling, demonstrating how crime and mystery genres have been a playground for ambitious storytellers. Bordwell delves into the works of literary giants such as Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Dashiell Hammett, Patricia Highsmith, Alfred Hitchcock, Dorothy Sayers, and Quentin Tarantino, among others. By examining their contributions, he unveils the collaborative dance between creators and audiences, revealing how they have influenced each other over the past century.

Bordwell is a renowned scholar with numerous publications to his name, including Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling and the widely used textbook Film Art: An Introduction (twelfth edition, 2020). He also cohosts the Observations on Film Art series of video essays on the Criterion Channel.

According to Professor Bordwell’s colleague, Jeff Smith, “The recognition that Perplexing Plots has received means the world to David.  The Edgar Award nomination places him in great company. More importantly, the accolade the Mystery Writers have bestowed comes from the very practitioners that David writes about so eloquently in his book.”

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