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Sherlock Holmes Day

Sherlock Holmes Day Abstracts

Elena Alakomi: “Joan Watson as a Transgressive Figure? Ethnicity and Gender Roles in
American Television Detective Drama Elementary”

The first season of the American crime show Elementary (CBS 2012) introduces a new
interpretation of Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’s famous sidekick, as one of its main characters.
Joan Watson, played by the Chinese American actress Lucy Liu, does not match the typical picture
of a racialized female character in fiction. This Watson questions gender roles of the detective genre
and challenges ethnic stereotypes that are still prevalent in fiction, and thus Joan Watson makes an
interestingly uncommon interpretation of Holmes’ companion.

In this paper I argue that Joan Watson appears as a transgressive figure and demonstrates an
exceptional agency for a Chinese American female character in detective fiction. Firstly, I analyze
how Joan is not reproducing ethnic stereotypes such as the Dragon Lady or the weak Asian woman
and possesses independence and intellect of her own that challenge those stereotypes. Secondly, I
discuss how, as a female detective, Joan is not driven by her dependence on a superior male
companion, but by her own ambition and dedication to detective work.

I approach my research and examine the agency of Joan Watson through literature and
studies on crime fiction, gender roles, and ethnicity, including works by Philippa Gates, Thobani
Sunera and Tineke Hellwig, Robert G. Lee, and Sue Turnbull. Based on the readings, I analyze the
first season of Elementary. The findings come together to display what kind of agency Joan has in
the series and disclose how she is breaking ethnic stereotypes and gender roles in the detective


Salla Hietanen: “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Silenced Women in BBC’s Sherlock”

Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories include many female characters, ranging from
traditional damsel-in-distress to industrious and criminal Irene Adler. In his literary works, women
typically rely on Holmes’s superior masculinity and intelligence, and are often depicted largely by
their external attributes. Their relations to men in their lives plays an important part in the stories,
sometimes restricting their movements, and occasionally advancing their own desires.

My interest in this paper lies in the modern interpretation of women in BBC’s television
adaptation of Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock (2010-). In Victorian era, women were expected to
remain silent on important matters and obedient to men. Their movement was restricted in public
spaces, and their power in public matters was minimal compared to that of men of the time. I will
look into the modern television version of Victorian detective series: have the perceptions of
women changed and how? Are they able to voice their opinions, and how are their opinions then
received? I examine the conversation patterns of the characters, in order to discover who exactly
holds the power, and the ways it is held.

I approach Sherlock series as a whole arc, including the first three seasons. In this
presentation’s sample I incorporate all female characters who have verbal interactions with the main
characters. Drawing on Hadar Aviram’s (2011) calculations of depictions of women in Arthur
Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories, I will measure the reception female characters
receive in television series. I propose that the treatment of women by the main characters delivers
us a view on how female characters as a whole are depicted in modern television series.


Karo Nyman: “From Chronicler to Female Agency: Watson’s Role in Elementary”

Dr. John Watson, the well-known sidekick of Sherlock Holmes, is portrayed as the ‘chronicler’ of
the detective mastermind’s exploits in the original novels by Arthur Conan Doyle and the more
traditional adaptations of his work. What this chronicler status means is that he documents and
narrates Holmes’ exploits and admires his expertise, emphasizing the leading detective’s genious. In
addition, chronicler acts as a reader’s surrogate. As a result, original Watson is lacking agency.

CBS television series Elementary makes major alterations to the character, changing
Watson’s gender and ethnicity, while at the same time granting her, Dr. Joan Watson, agency in the
series. This means that in Elementary, the traditional notion of detective duo consisting of the
superior detective and inferior counterpart is challenged. In fact, Watson is given a degree of
authority over Holmes, being his recovery coach after his drug rehabilitation. My fascination lies on
this newfound role of Watson. In my paper, I will argue that Elementary’s new active Watson is
constructed through emphasizing her intelligence and through the development of her deduction
skills. Furthermore, I will examine how Watson’s gender affects her agency.

My approach is to examine Watson’s character and agency based on the conventions of
crime fiction, detective drama, and detective duo relationship. I will refer to previous studies about
detective and crime fiction, as well as women detectives. Works include Crime Fiction by John
Scaggs and Philippa Gates’ work Detecting Women: Gender and the Hollywood Detective Film.
Through research, I will demonstrate how Dr. Joan Watson is a unique version of the classic
character because of her agency and gender.


Jenny Piik: TBA


Jenni Railo: “’Sherlock Holmes, (a)sexual?’: The Depictions of Holmes’ Sexuality in Arthur
Conan Doyle’s Works and Contemporary TV Adaptations”

Sherlock Holmes and his sexuality, or the lack of it, has for long been a source of discussion and
debate. For a character who in Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories repeatedly rejects sexual and romantic
attraction and attachment, there is a surprising number of interpretations and adaptations that differ
from this behavior. While adaptations are, by definition, altered versions of the original text and
often subject to radical changes, the frequency with which Holmes’ asexuality is the target of these
changes is curious.

This research is a comparative study on Sherlock Holmes’ sexuality in the original stories
and contemporary adaptations. The main purpose of the study is to find answers to how and why so
many adaptations have deviated from the model of a romantically and sexually distant man
originally created by Doyle. Relying on previous gender, sexuality and adaptation studies, I tackle
the issue in three parts:

Firstly, I contextualize the representation of sexuality in the original Holmes stories in the
Victorian context. I argue that the Victorian repression of sexuality makes multiple different
interpretations of Holmes’ sexuality possible. Secondly, I compare my findings to how the
contemporary televised adaptations Sherlock (BBC 2010) and Elementary (CBS 2012) have
approached the matter of Holmes’ sexual and romantic inclinations. Lastly, I discuss these
differences and give possible reasons as to why the differences might exist.

It is my belief that once contextualized, the ambiguous nature of Holmes’ lack of sexual and
romantic attraction in Doyle’s stories opens a door to a number of credible interpretations on his
sexuality. Once the restraints Victorian values are removed, these interpretations can be further
explored in contemporary adaptations. In the end it can be said that the ambiguity of Holmes’
sexuality holds a great importance to many in the way it allows them to experience a Holmes they
can all personally identify with.


Tytti Rinkari & Nora Takanen: “A Masculine Hero or a Queer Icon? Investigating Sherlock
Holmes’ Identity in BBC’s Sherlock”

Since his creation in 1887, Sherlock Holmes has primarily been associated with traditionally
masculine characteristics such as rationality, logic, and a gentleman appearance, yet also portrayed
as eccentric. The latter mainly relates to his reluctance to adhere to social norms, and by omission,
leaves aspects like his sexual and romantic identity ambiguous. This ambiguity is precisely what
allows Holmes to exist in a queer space: queer, meaning unconventional and not conforming to
heteronormative expressions of gender or sexuality.

In the context of modern society, and especially since the release of the TV adaptation
Sherlock (BBC 2010), interpreting Holmes as queer has gained more interest among both scholars
and fans. In the last five years, many articles and essay collections on Holmes’s identity and the
queer undertones of his character have been published (e.g. Fathallah, Porter).

The main focus of this research is to study the portrayal of Holmes’ character in Sherlock
and to assess the possibility of a queer reading. Adaptations always reflect the society in which they
are created, and Sherlock clearly offers a more overt representation of the character’s homosocial
and queer aspects compared to the original stories. First, we will examine the reconstruction of this
Victorian character into a contemporary context from the perspective of queer theory. Second, we
analyze how this portrayal of Holmes is linked to the original Victorian one and how much of it
may simply be indicative of the modern society that produced the adaptation.

In Sherlock, Holmes’ certain eccentricities, along with his association with Watson,
strongly hint towards a queer interpretation, engaging viewers to contemplate the topic. In contrast,
the topic could be seen as irrelevant in Doyle’s stories. Newer adaptations have more freedom to
explore themes that might have been deemed inappropriate before. By reinventing the character,
contemporary writers can keep Holmes fresh and more relatable to modern audiences.


Niko Vitamo: “In the Boots of Sherlock Holmes: Making a Master Detective out of the
Average Joe”

Video games offer us a way to experience the life of a fictional character in a way that is different
when compared with other forms of media, such as literary works or TV shows. This is mainly
achieved thanks to the fact that video games are interactive, while the aforementioned other forms
of media are generally not interactive. However, there are a number of problems that arise when the
player of a video game is put in control of a character that is intellectually far superior to the
average player, Sherlock Holmes being a prime example of such a character.

 This paper is first going to briefly explain the concept of interactivity and some of the
difficulties that the player might experience if no help is provided. Secondly the paper is going to
focus on analyzing some of the restrictions that are placed upon the player in the video game
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments, and the tools that the video game provides to the player
in the various stages of the crime solving process. The crime solving process is divided into three
separate parts: gathering clues, making deductions, and solving the crime. All of these parts have
multiple different tools that help the player in different ways on his way to solve the crime at hand
and help him feel like the master detective he is in control of.

 Finally, the paper is going to comment on whether or not the video game under inspection
succeeds in making the player feel like they are actually experiencing being Sherlock Holmes.
While this last point is highly subjective and the result can vary greatly from person to person, it is
nevertheless an important topic.

Please register at the latest on 1 December 2016.

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Muutettu: 18.11.2016 10.17 Muokkaa

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