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Hélène Machinal. Conan Doyle : de Sherlock Holmes au Professeur Challenger

Presses Universitaires de Rennes, coll. “Interférences”, Rennes : 2004,  368 pages
David Le Barzic
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Hélène Machinal. Conan Doyle : de Sherlock Holmes au Professeur Challenger, Presses Universitaires de Rennes, coll. “Interférences”, Rennes : 2004,  368 p.

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Auteurs étudiés :

Arthur Conan Doyle
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Texte intégral

1Conan Doyle’s œuvre is articulated along three major literary axes and Hélène Machinal accordingly divides her study into three parts: crime fiction (1887-1898), fantasy fiction (1898-1912), and speculative fiction (1912-1930).

2While mysterious deeds and strange events tend to be rationally accounted for in the early Sherlock Holmes stories, the essentially fantastic components of the later fiction are already in place. In fact, Hélène Machinal explains, science no longer holds the key to unlocking the human mind in Conan Doyle’s second writing phase. Instead, unfathomable forces rule in a world of overwhelming fear and uncontrollable angst. Announcing the third part of Doyle’s life and career, The Lost World introduces Professor Challenger as well as a rising genre known as speculative fiction or futuristic novel, in which the uncanny is no longer depicted as a fatality but as the goal of an active quest.

3Hélène Machinal shows how these three literary movements reflect the inquiring mind of a writer in constant dialogue with a fast-moving era. Driven by fascination and anguish, Conan Doyle takes part in, and makes sense of the political, scientific and intellectual progress of his time (1859-1930).

4The quest into the unknown characterizes both Conan Doyle’s literature and Hélène Machinal’s research. In exploring every nook and cranny of Doyle’s oeuvre, “from Sherlock Holmes to Professor Challenger”, Hélène Machinal sheds light on the lesser-known periods, publications, characteristics and characters of the Scottish writer. She stresses that Doyle not only laid the (still-standing) foundations of the detective short-story but also incorporated and developed in his works the great literary and ideological debates of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

5Analyzing the fiction of the author in its entirety enables Hélène Machinal to present his life and career as an ongoing philosophical reflection leading to his engagement with spiritualism in 1916.

6Hélène Machinal emphasizes the global coherence and vision of a prolific writer whose work has been unfairly pinned down to a literally episodic –albeit symbolic– character and genre. It is here restored to its incredible richness and variety, depth and complexity.

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Référence électronique

David Le Barzic, « Hélène Machinal. Conan Doyle : de Sherlock Holmes au Professeur Challenger »Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 48 | Spring 2007, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2007, consulté le 02 décembre 2022. URL :

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David Le Barzic

Université d'Angers

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