Detective Fiction: The End of Civilization or its Salvation? -- NEMLA conference, Boston, 21 - 4 Mar., 2013

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Maria Plochocki
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As a popular genre, detective fiction often refers to or even uses as its foundation social issues, crises, and questions contemporaneous with its production. Recent examples of this, by authors such as Henning Mankell and Stieg Larssen, rely on even more extreme engagement, bringing attention in their plots to the rights and exploitation of political refugees, sex trafficking, and modern warlords. Such a dark turn in an already dark genre may cause one to wonder: is the genre foreshadowing the end of civilization, esp. given that such crimes and injustices occur in supposedly modern, just societies, such as Sweden and are often investigated by overtaxed, exhausted detectives and police systems?
By contrast, Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe series, among other examples, features detectives who, in the midst of corruption and many other, even greater evils, carry on with their work, not only managing to eke out a living, but also bringing some measure of justice for both detective and the larger society. Do such works, then, attest to the ability of detective fiction to be or at least represent as possible the salvation of civilization?
Proposals of 250 words (MS Word attachments) for papers addressing one or both questions and/ or queries by 30 Sept. to Maria Plochocki at

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