Corey HayesFollow




English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Emily Heady


Adaptations, Narrative Theory, Reader Response, Sherlock Holmes


English Language and Literature | Film and Media Studies | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Literature in English, British Isles


In the last ten years, popular culture has seen a number of visual interpretations of the character and cases of Sherlock Holmes. From the films starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law to the BBC show Sherlock and the CBS show Elementary, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s consulting detective is currently at the forefront of the public mind. However, these new on-screen interpretations of the character represent merely the tip of the Holmes iceberg, and the dedication of their fans is just a continuation of the intense popularity that Doyle’s detective has enjoyed since his earliest appearances in print. All of the adaptations, modernizations, and reinterpretations inspired by Sherlock Holmes lead inevitably to the question of why the detective is so popular. Examination of the original Holmes stories shows that they do not sufficiently contribute to the reader’s understanding of their principle character, and that interpreting meaning from the Holmes canon therefore must rest on outside sources which readers have had to create for themselves. These reader-created adaptations of Holmes range from new stories to radio dramas to television series and films. This thesis argues that the later adaptations function as fillers of the gaps in the original texts, offering readers’ interpretations of Sherlock Holmes’ character and cases to the ever-growing body of work focused upon the life and times of the world’s greatest detective.