Detective Fiction and the Revival of Reading

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Maria Plochocki/ NorthEastern Modern Language Associatio
contact email: 

That reading and literacy rates are falling is no news: regardless of medium, we seem to be reading less and less, and doing so less well, whether in terms of comprehension, retention, or critical thinking. What potential does detective fiction hold to reverse this trend and even enable literacy, however defined, to survive and thrive in our digital era and beyond? The very traits of the genre that cause some to hold it in disdain, still, may hold the promise of rescuing reading and literacy. Firstly, the very disregard with which the genre is still treated by some, despite growing scholarship on same, allows it to be interrogated more easily; thus, critical and readerly standards can be exposed and challenged more easily. Its engagement with social ills (reputation as a conservative and escapist genre notwithstanding) also engage riders, allowing them to practice this skill, even attempt to remedy these ills and (in an evocation of Sidney’s “In Défense of Poesy,” among other examples) enter a world better than the “real” because constructed, which serves to keep them reading. Finally, the susceptibility of this genre, more than others, to serialisation and adaptation – novels written around the same detectives and milieux, often spawning films, television series, even games and other merchandise – keep readers, as P. D. James and many others have noted, hanging on and hoping for more, even forming relationships. Papers addressing these and related potentials for the genre – to support literacy and allow it to evolve and survive – are sought.


The above CFP is for a session at NEMLA 2020, to be held 5 - 8 Mar. in Boston.

Submit abstracts at