St. Olaf College | News

Mystery, murder, and mayhem will take center stage at panel discussion

An upcoming event in Viking Theater will be fraught with mystery, murder, and mayhem.

A panel of St. Olaf College experts, authors, and enthusiasts will discuss their favorite international crime fiction writers and why they are drawn to this genre.

The discussion will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, and will be followed with refreshments. It is free and open to the public, and will be streamed and archived online.

St. Olaf President David R. Anderson ’74, a fan and scholar of hard-boiled detective fiction, will discuss Rex Stout, author of the popular Nero Wolfe series.

Associate Professor of French Jolene Barjasteh will focus on works by the award-winning French female crime fiction writer Fred Vargas.

Professor of French Mary Cisar will present Louise Penny, author of cozy mysteries set in the Canadian province of Quebec.

Visiting Associate Professor of English Bjorn Nordfjord, who has an interest in Nordic Noir, will talk about authors from Sweden (Sjöwahl and Wahlöö), Norway (Jo Nesbø), Denmark (Jussi Adler Olsen), Iceland (Arnaldur Indridason), and Finland (Matti Joensuu).

Assistant Professor of French Maria Vendetti will explore the Mediterranean Noir novels of Jean-Claude Izzo.

“In a globally engaged community like the one at St. Olaf College, it seems fitting to heighten awareness of the genre and its global popularity. We can learn much about the perspectives of others through literature,” Barjasteh says. “For those on the panel, crime fiction is also worthy of scholarly investigation regarding its relationship to critical narrative theory, moral theory, gender studies, and its role in a larger social and historical context.”

Barjasteh has organized an annual St. Olaf faculty panel, often interdisciplinary in nature, over the past several years. These panels allow faculty members to collaborate on a common project of interest and share their expertise on a particular topic or author for a wide audience — students, faculty, staff, and members of the Northfield community. This year, she chose “International Crime Fiction” as an appropriate theme since this genre appeals to an ever-increasing and diverse readership.

“On a bleak and dreary midwinter evening, there is nothing quite like curling up in a quiet corner on campus or elsewhere with a well-written tale of mystery, mayhem, and, of course, murder,” Barjasteh says.