Barbara Pezzotti ACIS
I have just come back from Galway where I attended the international crime fiction conference “Gender and Sexuality in the Crime Genre”. Organized by Kate Quinn (University of Galway) and Marieke Krajenbrink (University of Limerick), the conference hosted a great number of interesting papers from scholars coming from Europe, the USA, Australia, India, Kuwait, Russia and Taiwan. The conference also hosted two keynote addresses, one by Andrew Pepper (Queen’s University, Belfast) and the other by Lisa Downing (University of Birmingham). In this post I will talk about Pepper’s presentation, while a subsequent post will be devoted to Downing’s speech.
Pepper, who is also a crime novelist, made an inspiring presentation entitled “Appropriating the Nineenteenth Century: The New Economy of Work and Sex in Crime Fiction”. Analyzing the book “The Crimson Petal and the White” by Michel Faber using a Marxist and Foucaltian perspective, he argued that some contemporary crime novelists appropriated the Victoria era in order to comment upon the “criminal aspect of production”. According to Pepper, by concentrating only on the criminal nature of money, crime novelists of the nineteenth century had overlooked this correlation. Therefore, some contemporary crime novelists had the merit to step in and “cover the gaps” left unfulfilled by the genre. While he did not explicitly talk about his own novels, it is clear that Pepper’s Pyke series set in the 1840s has this ambition. While listening to this speech, I also thought that the issues of globalisation and the recent worldwide financial and economic crisis may have inspired some historical crime writers to return to the origins of capitalism in the Western world. Likewise, in Italian crime fiction, the rise of the Northern League inspired several authors, such as Loriano Macchiavelli and Marcello Fois, to set their stories in the Risorgimento. The revisionist discourse on Fascism also inspired Lucarelli and other writers to set their crime stories during the Ventennio. Clearly, the pattern that, according to Browne, Kreiser and Winks (2000) and Claudio Milanesi (2006), allows crime authors to reflect upon the present through past events still works in these troubled times.