posted March 31, 2011

Annual DeGraaf Lecture to Examine Fiction and Characters

Dr. Margaret Anne Doody, who is the Glynn Professor of Literature at the University of Notre Dame and author of a series of detective novels, will present the address "Fiction and People: Making Up and Hanging Out with Characters" as the 2011 De Graaf Lecture at Hope College on Tuesday, April 12, at 4 p.m. in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication.

The public is invited.  Admission is free.

Refreshments will be provided in the rotunda before the presentation.

Canadian by birth, Doody received a BA from Dalhousie University and subsequent degrees (BA, MA, D. Phil.) from Oxford. Her earliest work focused on the 18th-century English novel, specifically on the works of Samuel Richardson (1689-1761). She has long been a recognized specialist on other novelists of the period, especially Frances Burney, Jonathan Swift and Jane Austen, whose writings she has edited for the popular paperback Oxford World and Penguin Classics series.

Rather than contenting herself with a defined and traditional literary province, Doody has also been moved to excavate the very origins of prose fiction, a project exploiting her parallel expertise in classical culture. She is best known for her ambitious and wide-ranging study "The True Story of the Novel" (1996), which traces the genre not, as in standard histories, to the 18th century but to antiquity and the rich exchange of stories in polyglot intellectual and commercial centers such as Alexandria. In Doody's view, the novel is characterized by "tropes" - "figures of the mind" - that recur across cultures and centuries: breaking and entering, mending the break, the marsh, the cave or labyrinth, descriptions of food or dreams, Eros, and ultimately what Doody personifies as "the Goddess," the protean and resilient principle of natural life.

Doody's most recent book, "Tropic of Venice" (2006), offers an impressionistic survey of shifting representations of Venice in literature and art. Doody's scholarship is marked as well by a sustained attention to popular fiction: her list of edited publications includes "The Annotated Anne of Green Gables" (1997).

She made her mark as a writer of detective fiction in 1978 with "Aristotle Detective," transforming the ancient Greek philosopher into a sleuth; in recent years she has revived the character with "Aristotle and Poetic Justice" (2002), "Aristotle and the Secrets of Life" (2003), "Poison in Athens" (2004) and "Mysteries of Eleusis" (2005).  Her novels have been translated into Greek, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian.

The Clarence De Graaf Lectureship was established in 1988 by the family of Dr. Clarence De Graaf in memory of his service on the faculty of Hope College. De Graaf, who died in 1986, taught in the department of English for 44 years, from 1928 until his retirement in 1972, and served as department chair for 25 of those years.