Knowing the unknowable: detecting metaphysics and religion in crime fiction

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This essay draws attention to the backside of crime fiction and narratives of detection. While several scholars in various ways highlight a present cultural transformation towards revitalization of metaphysics and religion in so-called post-secular conditions this essay shows that this is in itself nothing new. The history of crime fiction and stories about investigating crime – in this case up until 2nd World War – are fleetingly pierced by an undercurrent of irrationality and an interest vested in metaphysics, religion and the supernatural.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDetecting Detection : International Perspectives on the Uses of a Plot
EditorsPeter Baker, Deborah Shaller
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Publication date28 Aug 2012
ISBN (Print)9781441100788
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2012

Bibliographical note

"Kim Toft Hansen’s essay ‘Knowing the unknowable: detecting metaphysics and religion in crime fiction’ is by far the most comprehensive contribution, being neither confined to a single writer nor a single work, but providing an impressive overview of religion in crime fiction, from the Bible to twelfth century China, through to the rise of detective fiction as it is understood in the West during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I was particularly drawn to his argument that the fictional detective with his reliance on reason, logic, and science, is not a substitute for religion, spirituality or the figure of the priest. I am not sure that I entirely agree with him, but his rebuttal of the widely held orthodoxy that ‘crime fiction takes the place of religion’ (p. 156) offers much food for thought."
Bill Phillips, Textual Practice, 28 (6), 2014.

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