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How Does Today's Sherlock Stack Up? An Expert Compares Old to New

by Kelly Prosen
December 31, 2016 | I ❤️ PBS
sherlock
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC's "Sherlock." Courtesy of Hartswood Films and "Masterpiece."

Richmond Adams, assistant professor of English at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, has been fascinated by cinematic adaptations of Sherlock Holmes throughout the years. The lucky guy specializes in analyzing the differences between the many iterations of Sherlock that have appeared in popular culture for more than a century.

"Iconic characters such as Holmes and (Dr. John) Watson serve the purposes of each generation of readers and viewers through a recreating of older stories or developing new ways for them to explore issues through a given cultural setting," he said.

sherlock
A sampling of Sherlock Holmes throughout history: (from left) illustration by Sidney Paget, 1891; John Barrymore, 1922; Christopher Plummer, 1979; Vincent D'Onofrio in "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" (his character is said to be a modern interpretation of Sherlock Holmes); Jonny Lee Miller in "Elementary."

Richmond Adams, assistant professor of English at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, has been fascinated by cinematic adaptations of Sherlock Holmes throughout the years. The lucky guy specializes in analyzing the differences between the many iterations of Sherlock that have appeared in popular culture for more than a century.

"Iconic characters such as Holmes and (Dr. John) Watson serve the purposes of each generation of readers and viewers through a recreating of older stories or developing new ways for them to explore issues through a given cultural setting," he said.

Adams’ work investigates cinematic adaptations of Holmes against the cultural milieu of the generations and compares them to the Victorian ideals illustrated through Conan Doyle’s gentleman detective.

"Sherlock" provides rich ground for this kind of investigation. While the Victorian-era Holmes struggled with nascent forensic science, a rigid class and social structure, and a world changing rapidly through industrialization, Benedict Cumberbatch's HolmesDr. Adams contends, faces his own round of challenges: “post-9/11 Western cultural fears coupled with mutual critique of postmodernism as an intellectual construct.”

sherlock
Courtesy of Hartswood Films and "Masterpiece."

Richmond Adams, assistant professor of English at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, has been fascinated by cinematic adaptations of Sherlock Holmes throughout the years. The lucky guy specializes in analyzing the differences between the many iterations of Sherlock that have appeared in popular culture for more than a century.

"Iconic characters such as Holmes and (Dr. John) Watson serve the purposes of each generation of readers and viewers through a recreating of older stories or developing new ways for them to explore issues through a given cultural setting," he said.

Adams’ work investigates cinematic adaptations of Holmes against the cultural milieu of the generations and compares them to the Victorian ideals illustrated through Conan Doyle’s gentleman detective.

"Sherlock" provides rich ground for this kind of investigation. While the Victorian-era Holmes struggled with nascent forensic science, a rigid class and social structure, and a world changing rapidly through industrialization, Benedict Cumberbatch's HolmesDr. Adams contends, faces his own round of challenges: “post-9/11 Western cultural fears coupled with mutual critique of postmodernism as an intellectual construct.”

I’m glad Sherlock and John are still going strong in our modern era—even if I do prefer them in Victorian dress.

Watch the first episode of season four on PBS.org for a limited time. Check your local PBS station's schedule for broadcast dates and times.

I’m glad Sherlock and John are still going strong in our modern era—even if I do prefer them in Victorian dress.

Watch the first episode of season four on PBS.org for a limited time. Check your local PBS station's schedule for broadcast dates and times.

I’m glad Sherlock and John are still going strong in our modern era—even if I do prefer them in Victorian dress.

Watch the first episode of season four on PBS.org for a limited time. Check your local PBS station's schedule for broadcast dates and times.

Richmond Adams, assistant professor of English at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, has been fascinated by cinematic adaptations of Sherlock Holmes throughout the years. The lucky guy specializes in analyzing the differences between the many iterations of Sherlock that have appeared in popular culture for more than a century.

"Iconic characters such as Holmes and (Dr. John) Watson serve the purposes of each generation of readers and viewers through a recreating of older stories or developing new ways for them to explore issues through a given cultural setting," he said.

Adams’ work investigates cinematic adaptations of Holmes against the cultural milieu of the generations and compares them to the Victorian ideals illustrated through Conan Doyle’s gentleman detective.

"Sherlock" provides rich ground for this kind of investigation. While the Victorian-era Holmes struggled with nascent forensic science, a rigid class and social structure, and a world changing rapidly through industrialization, Benedict Cumberbatch's HolmesDr. Adams contends, faces his own round of challenges: “post-9/11 Western cultural fears coupled with mutual critique of postmodernism as an intellectual construct.”

I’m glad Sherlock and John are still going strong in our modern era—even if I do prefer them in Victorian dress.

Watch the first episode of season four on PBS.org for a limited time. Check your local PBS station's schedule for broadcast dates and times.

Kelly Prosen
Kelly Prosen is a Minneapolis writer who loves tabletop games, horror, roadside attractions and empowering women. She tweets pictures of her cats and food her husband makes @kellymprosen and blogs about love and mental illness at adventuresinpoorgrammar.blogspot.com.
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