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Academia in Fact and Fiction

Ludmiła Gruszewska-Blaim and Merritt Moseley

«Academia in Fact and Fiction» comprises twenty-eight essays on the relationship(s) between the university and the practice of belles lettres. The collection includes studies of the teaching of fiction by university professors; the fit – or misfit – between the creative writer and the academy; the depiction of the university, its staff and atmosphere, in literature, cinema and new media; and the varieties of academic fiction ranging from the ludic and satirical to the tragic. Most of the works addressed in the volume are British or American, modern or contemporary, but the historical range extends to Victorian and Shakespearian works, and the geographical range includes novels and poems from Russia, New Zealand, and Nigeria. Among the genres discussed are, in addition to the «literary novel», plays, detective fiction, fanfiction, utopias, mysteries and alternative history. The contributors are international and cosmopolitan.

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The College Mystery and the Mystery Academic Novel: A Preliminary Differentiation (Ludmiła Gruszewska-Blaim (University of Gdańsk))


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Ludmiła Gruszewska-Blaim

The College Mystery and the Mystery Academic Novel: A Preliminary Differentiation

Synopsis: Discriminating between the college mystery (a subgenre of the mystery novel) and the mystery academic novel (a subgenre of the college novel) the study scrutinizes the dominant tendencies observed in both types of fiction with regard to the main conflict, fictional reality and discourse. It is argued that despite some common characteristics, which include criminally induced lack and the resultant havoc in the higher education system, the college mystery and the self-reflexive mystery academic novel differ in how they deploy the detective novel conventions. Whereas the former obeys the rules of traditional criminal plotting, the latter introduces the conventions mainly to implode them in a self-parodying process of decriminalization aimed to make the reader more sensitive to typically academic ‘crimes’ and misdemeanours.

For over a hundred years the college mystery novel has flourished, notwithstanding a common belief that crime eschews ivory towers both in fact and fiction.1 In view of limited popularity college novels have enjoyed, one may wonder what encourages mystery writers to deploy mildly-mannered, eccentric and – as the stereotype further necessitates – absent-minded professor-figures in their stories of crimes and misdemeanours. Relying on “the apparent antithesis between the values of higher education—tolerance, gentleness, the settling of differences by discussion rather than violence—and the homicide” (Moseley 109), the academic murder mystery evidently becomes a challenge for ambitious, or just defiant, authors who value...

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