Symbols that Transform: Trickster Nature in Detective Fiction


  • Susan Rowland Pacifica Graduate Institute



C. G. Jung's 1911 volume finds a home in the English edition of his Collected Works as Volume 5: Symbols of Transformation (1956). This paper will argue that Jung here offers insight into symbolism that can augment and expand his notion of symbol and myth as engines of psychic transformation. While Symbols of Transformation's subtitle, “An Analysis of the Prelude to a Case of Schizophrenia,” indicates a clinical approach, my paper will develop Jungian symbols and myth in a popular cultural form, detective fiction. It will show how detective fiction adopts the ancient trickster myth to generate symbols that re-shape modern consciousness in its relation to non-human nature.
    The trickster myth itself has a possible antecedent in humans evolving through and with, the practice of hunting. For the modern urban person, detective fiction supplies the hunt and here the Jungian symbol demonstrates its potency for realigning both human nature, and humans and nature. As well as Jung, this paper draws on Lewis Hyde's remarkable Trickster Makes This World (1998) and offers case studies of two novels overtly attuned to hunting through the figure of the dog. These novels are Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) and a recent creative response to it in Nevada Barr's Winter Study (2008) set among mythical and actual wolves.