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Date: September 23, 2004

Gumshoes and God, Finding Faith in Mystery Novels

Does bringing a murderer to justice reflect a desire for a permanent moral order? Does an affection for mysteries reflect an attraction to the unknown? While Christianity has seen a marked decline among its regular supporters, there’s an increase in readership of novels by writers utilizing Christian themes to comment on life. Peter C. Erb, a translator, editor and author of 15 books on spirituality and religion, will examine the treatment of religion in contemporary murder mysteries in a series of public lectures, “Murder, Manners and Mystery: Presentations of Faith in Contemporary Fiction.” These John Albert Hall Lectures are sponsored by UVic’s centre for studies in religion and society and the Diocese of British Columbia in conjunction with the Greater Victoria Lay School of Theology.
Erb will highlight works by Colin Dexter, Umberto Eco, P.D. James and Ian Pears, among others, as he examines the implications that using Christian themes in mystery novels have on understanding Christian thought and life in a post-Christian society. All lectures will be held in the Fraser Building, room 159.

“Reading Mystery: In the End is the Beginning”
Monday, 4 October at 7:30 p.m.
Why does the unknown attract us? P.D. James’ Devices and Desires (1989) offers a useful introduction to some key debates surrounding the mystery genre and to the principles of reading a literary text concerned with religious and theological issues.

“Why Murder? Rewriting Original Sin”
Wednesday, 6 October at 7:30 p.m.
Questions of crime and faith, human limitation and fall, are as old as the Genesis telling of Cain and Abel, and are revisited in P. D. James’ Original Sin (1994) and Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose (1980), among other works.

“Justice and Good Manners: When Presence is Pretense”
Tuesday, 12 October at 7:30 p.m.
The successful criminal murderer must be a consummate artist. But is all art like that of the murderer, based on a lie, shaped to replace a final truth? This problem appeared in Exodus and in works such as P. D. James’ A Certain Justice (1997) and Ian Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost (1997).

“Remembrance, Thanksgiving and Final Release: How Freud Got It Wrong”
Wednesday, 13 October at 7:30 p.m.
How is the punishment to fit the crime? Eternal questions of death and redemption were explored by the ancients, in Freud’s reading of Sophocles’ Oedipus the Tyrant, in P. D. James’ Death in Holy Orders (2001) and Colin Dexter’s A Remorseful Day (1999).

Media contacts:
Dr. Murdith McLean (Studies in Religion and Society) at (250) 472-4456 or mclean@cc.umanitoba.ca
Patty Pitts (UVic Communications) at (250) 721-7656 or ppitts@uvic.ca

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