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Title:Concepts of social justice and the modern American detective novel
Author(s):Fritzler, Marilyn Rae
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Christians, Clifford G.
Department / Program:Communications
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American Studies
Literature, American
Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Abstract:The idea of justice as a social virtue and as an individual value has intrigued philosophers for centuries. The emphasis it has received throughout history and in various cultures and societies has provided the central core of a debate which has attracted the attention of classical and modern philosophers, legal theorists and feminist thinkers. The range of conceptual forms describe an historical dichotomy between act and rule-based theory, and a locus in society, the individual, or, interactively demonstrated in both.
A survey of the literature on social justice, with emphasis on the philosophical and theoretical writings traces its evolution from the rational basis of Aristotle's political association, tempered by equity; through Plato's three-part ideal of the individual in society; Hume's appetite-impelled reason; Kant's categorical imperative; and Mill's universalizability. From these foundations in philosophy, legal, social and moral theorists and feminist scholars have developed forms of justice which govern the actions of the individual in society--illuminating standards of fairness in interaction and exchange, distribution and redistribution, correction and, when necessary, punishment or retribution.
Writers of the detective novel came late to this debate; the story form has historical origins as old as Aesop, but its popular presence was not documented until the writings of Edgar Allen Poe in the 1840s. British and American writers since have delineated a classical, hard-boiled and modern style of detection. This latter form, in which the detective often is a woman who solves the crime through networks of professional, personal and business associations, like its predecessors has offered varying portrayals of justice.
A survey of readers, and interviews with selected individuals, revealed a recurring form of justice that detective novel readers recognize. This literary view of justice characterizes social authority as the arm of justice--a version of justice most readers surveyed accept. The occasional intervention of nature, fate or accident, imposing a swifter form of justice on the guilty criminal, also is plausible to readers as an informal alternative to the justice invoked by a legal system.
When readers compared their own experiences with the legal system and crime news to those portrayed by their favorite detective novelist, they found few similarities overall, but areas of shared knowledge. Most readers distinguish between the two--fact and fiction--but find one serving as analagous or metaphorical reference to the other. They describe their reading choices in terms of complete networks of meaning and as literary conversations between writers, their characters and themselves. Their readings furnish a place of the mind that is reconstituted each time they select another book by that writer. This created world, however, is less referential than it is a dimension or an awareness within which the reader finds meaning.
Issue Date:1992
Rights Information:Copyright 1992 Fritzler, Marilyn Rae
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9236464
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9236464

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