The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
The Detective in 'Twin Peaks'  by Andreas Blassmann

I. The Murder Mystery

1. The Detective

The first chapter briefly introduces the formula of the detective story as created by Poe. I will focus on two important elements: first, the relation between the inside (of the mind) and the outside (of the setting), and second, the detective's Bi-Part Soul, which can be seen as a result of his isolation. I will then demonstrate how these elements compare and contrast with the character of Agent Cooper in TP. It could then be concluded that Cooper represents an alternate mode of detection that allows for a widening and expansion of the detective's personality and the detective genre itself.

The first aspect concerns the inner seclusion and distance of the classical detective towards the object and the place of investigation. Classical detectives like C. Auguste Dupin or Sherlock Holmes are clearly set apart from the ordinary middle class and live a life in a secluded, serene environment. Irwin points out that "Dupin [Poe's detective] is in effect an adult mask for one of the most powerful of childhood wishes, the desire of a physically helpless being for mental dominance, the world to conform absolutely to our dreams, for thinking to make it so." (Irwin, Intro. xvi.) The male's desire to control and maintain power is, indeed, overpowering for the classical detective. In order to gain complete control the detective has to seal himself off, isolate himself from the very society he helps to protect. I will thus ponder the odd social situation of classical characters like Dupin or Holmes, i.e. the combination of a protector as well as a neglecter of society.

The second characteristic trait is firmly connected with the detective's seclusion and isolation. In classical detective stories one often finds an inner division within the detective. This schizoid split is referred to by the I-Narrator in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" as the "old philosophy of the Bi-Part Soul" (Poe, 66). The detective genius is usually characterized as a split self, a schizoid character who carries in himself both 'resolvent' (society's helper) and 'creative' (the secluded artist) elements.

With Cooper these schizoid aspects take on a different shape. Cooper adds another element to the resolvent. Although he might be called creative (in an esoteric sense, as we shall see) he can also be considered 'consuming'. He embraces consumer society in an overtly enthusiastic fashion. Cooper registers all information alike, in a serious game of no-difference. In his arbitrariness he seems to find truth, although not with a capital 'T'. Cooper strives for a general openness that allows for various approaches to work. I will examine his errands into nature with a demonstration of his 'Tibetan method' in the Twin Peaks woods. Here one finds the ultimate combination of the American middle class world with an odd interpretation of Tibetan Buddhism.

We will see that Cooper is willing and able to let go and to open himself to new sensual experiences, most of them connected to nature. Of course, Cooper's methods are highly ambivalent in their arbitrariness. We will have to assess whether TP confronts the viewer with sheer parody or with a truly new approach to detection. Another question will be if detection is a central issue in the first place. The issue of closure vs. openness also has to be regarded in relation to the media that the detective is working in: Dupin's investigations happen within the confines of the (closed) detective story, whereas Cooper is essentially a serial detective who functions within a plot that has to keep moving and unfolds and scatters into countless narrative sidetracks and subplots.

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