• Louise Jensen
4. term, English, Master (Master Programme)
This thesis studies the changes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary character Sherlock Holmes has undergone since the first novel A Study in Scarlet (1887) was published. This thesis focuses on three of Sherlock Holmes' new trademarks and why the changes in his persona are possible. The three new trademarks include how Holmes' sexuality is represented, how he fulfils being categorised as an action-hero, and lastly, why it is possible to transform the character into a comedian. Furthermore, this thesis examines why audiences need a consulting detective in the 21st century.
The analytical chapter of this thesis incorporates film and TV adaptations such as Guy Ritchie's two films Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). Additionally, two TV-series are included and the first is Steven Moffat's and Mark Gatiss' BBC production Sherlock that started airing in 2010. The second television series is Elementary (2012-) from director Robert Doherty. These four adaptations are compared to Conan Doyle's literary works in order to study the changes in Holmes' trademarks.
This thesis incorporates Stuart Hall's theory of representation, Ferdinand De Saussure's view on semiotics, and Roland Barthes' connotation and denotation. Stuart Hall's theory of representation states that a representation stands for another object or person and in relation to this thesis actors create representations of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Ferdinand De Saussure notices that a sign includes a signifier and a signified. The signifier is the form of the sign and the signified is the coded message that the interpreter decodes. In addition, Roland Barthes adds the levels of denotation and connotation in order to understand the interpreter of a sign. Denotation is the physical aspect of a sign while the connotation is personal conventions that are activated when reading a sign.
Firstly, the analysis focuses on Sherlock Holmes' sexual identity as a trademark. Holmes does not have a clear sexuality and each of the adaptations give their view on the matter. The character of Holmes is portrayed as being a heterosexual man in Elementary while the television series Sherlock portrays Holmes as an asexual character. The TV-series incorporates multiple jokes where it is indicated that Sherlock Holmes and John Watson are in a sexual relationship. Guy Ritchie includes the term bromance in his adaptations where Holmes and Watson share an incredibly close relationship with each other.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adds Irene Adler as a love interest to Sherlock Holmes and the female character is present in all of the adaptations though she is represented differently. She transforms into a dominatrix in Sherlock (2010-). Doherty's Elementary (2012-) combines Irene Adler and Holmes' arch enemy Moriarty which has never been done before. Therefore, Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes falls in love with his arch enemy. Moriarty is transformed in many of the adaptations as well. He has a more feminine touch, but he still manipulates Holmes.
The analysis investigates one of Sherlock Holmes' newer trademarks where he is categorised as an action hero. Especially Guy Ritchie's two adaptations emphasise that Holmes transforms into a hero with super-powers. Kateryna Shadrina completes a list of requirements of super-heroes and Sherlock Holmes embodies all of those. He develops his powers of deduction and observations in order to save the world from some of its dangers.
The analytical chapter continues by viewing Sherlock Holmes as a comedian. The character of Holmes is more intelligent than an average human being and he often displays this by humiliating the people around him. At other times, Holmes is being unconsciously witty since he does not know how to decode certain messages in society. This is an element that Gatiss' and Moffat's Sherlock (2010-) continues to demonstrate throughout the episodes.
It is obvious that Sherlock Holmes is a cultural and universal text since the text and characters are modernised in many ways and they each depict elements from this modern time-period. Sherlock Holmes maintains most of his original trademarks that Conan Doyle and Sidney Paget placed upon the character, but Holmes embodies new trademarks in most of the adaptations. Audiences accept these changes and the different representations of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.
This thesis closes by answering the question of why the 21st century needs a consulting detective. Sherlock Holmes is a literary symbol of anything that the readers are not and cannot be. Holmes is categorised as an action hero, but he resembles an ordinary man. The world and the audiences need to be saved from the dangers in the world and Holmes begins by solving one adventure or case at a time.
Publication date2 Oct 2014
Number of pages53
ID: 204647114