Detective Fiction’s Ability to Mould Character and Promote Empathy

Maria Plochocki's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2018
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Literature, Humanities

The NorthEastern Modern Language Association (NeMLA) will be holding its 50th convention 21 - 24 Mar., 2019, in Washington, D. C. View the full Call for Papers here:

I'm convening the following session and welcome abstracts for and queries about same:

That its existence is contingent on crime, usually violent, may in and of itself make detective fiction questionable from a moral standpoint. Enjoying this genre may therefore seem tantamount to condoning such crime, even secretly wishing to commit same – or lacking the intelligence or courage to solve it oneself. Given readers’ propensity for becoming addicted to this genre, or at least zealously loyal to particular authors/ detectives, and with developments within the genre like fuller characterisation of perpetrators, about whom we learn more, and some of whom evoke reader sympathy, the stakes of reader enjoyment and investment become even higher and more complex.

Additionally, recent defences of the humanities, particularly literature, as promoting empathy and other virtues may extend this question to detective fiction in rather productive, interesting ways: to what extent can this genre not only valorise, as it has long done already, the solitary, eccentric detective, as well as respecting the victim/s, but also help us understand the perpetrator/s more completely? Is this necessary, much less desirable? What other/ further understanding and growth, moral or other, can it foster? Since many still don’t accept detective fiction as “real literature,” is its capacity to promote such compassion and edification limited? Papers examining specific examples, as well as offering broader overviews, are invited.

Submit abstracts, due by 30 Sept. 2018, here:

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Maria Plochocki

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