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Torture, Literature, and History in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Leather Funnel”

James Krasner


Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Leather Funnel” is a brief, rather ghastly tale that centers on a dream vision of a woman being brutally tortured. Doyle’s other major publication of 1902, The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct, was his defense of the British army against claims made by W. T. Stead in Methods of Barbarism (1901) that Boer women and children had been the victims of war crimes and systematic torture. Doyle structures the story so that the narrator’s naïve response of moral outrage at seeing a woman being tortured gradually develops into a more sophisticated understanding of justice as his vision is placed in its proper legal and historical context. Taken together, “The Leather Funnel” and The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct offer useful insights into Doyle’s understanding of the relationship between literature and history, and the deployment of state power through written language.


Conan Doyle, Boer War, torture, W.T. Stead, ghost stories

Full Text:



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Stead, W. T. 1901. Methods of Barbarism. London: Mowbray House.

Wong, Amy R. 2015. “Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Great New Adventure Story’: Journalism in The Lost World”. Studies in the Novel 47 (1): 60-79.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ling-2018-002-kras

Copyright (©) 2019 James Krasner – Editorial format and Graphical layout: copyright (©) LED Edizioni Universitarie


Linguæ & - Rivista di lingue e culture moderne
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (06/04/2012 n. 185)
Online ISSN 1724-8698 - Print ISSN 2281-8952

Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione, Studi Umanistici e Internazionali: Storia, Culture, Lingue, Letterature, Arti, Media
Università degli Studi di Urbino Carlo Bo

Editor-in-Chief: Roberta Mullini
Editorial Board: Maurizio Ascari - Stefano Beretta - Antonio Bertacca- Tania Collani - Chiara Elefante - Marina Guglielmi - Maryline Heck - Richard Hillman - Reinhard Johler - Stephen Knight - Cesare Mascitelli - Sonia Massai - Aurélie Moioli - Maria de Fátima Silva - Bart Van Den Bossche 

Editorial Staff: Margaret Amatulli - Alessandra Calanchi - Riccardo Donati - Ivo Klaver  - Massimiliano Morini - Antonella Negri - Luca Renzi

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