Monday, 21 June 2021
The first day of the DETECt Conference at Link Campus University started with a short welcome address by Full Professor Valentina Carla Re. She greeted guests and attendees joining online and then briefly presented the conference programme.
On behalf of the Rector of Link Campus University, Associate Professor Nicola Ferrigni welcomed everyone. As the head of Link Research Lab, he pointed out the goals of DETECt Project, which have found in the host university a correlation even in terms of mission. Next, Full Professor Roberta Bartoletti from Università di Urbino Carlo Bo and Coordinator of PIC-AIS (Associazione Italiana di Sociologia, Sezione Processi e Istituzioni Culturali) stressed the impact crime narratives have on the audience, as they produce a critical vision of society while dealing with controversial, transnational topics. Later, Giulia Anastasia Carluccio, from Università degli studi di Torino and President of CUC (Consulta Universitaria del Cinema) discussed the importance of interrogating the concept of “Europeanness” as a critical category, which is particularly useful when applied to the works of crime fiction.
It was then the turn of Full Professor Monica Dall’Asta from Università di Bologna and PI of DETECt Project: she commented on some of the project results. To evaluate what was learned over the last years of research, she suggested getting back to the initial hypotheses and then comparing them with the results. For instance, Professor Dall’Asta recalled how the research team assumed that the crime genre had increasingly worked as a driver for narrative delocalization.
Keynote by Theo D’Haen
“How Glocal are Contemporary European Crime Narratives?”
Full Professor Theo D’Haen, from KU Leuven, started with the interest that T. S. Eliot had in detective fiction, a popular kind of literature that, besides providing entertainment, echoes general feelings and attitudes. He went on with a broad background to European crime fiction and its place in world literature, analyzing such a productive genre, socially and ideologically. Professor D’Haen ended his keynote speech suggesting a more fitting label for the most recent crime European fiction that, rather than “glocal” from a national perspective, might be called “Euro-glocal”: he even ventured to say that “these recent TV crime fiction and drama series argue not only for diversity and unity, or rather, unity in diversity, but even for ever closer union”.
During the discussion following the keynote speech, Associate Professor Andrew Pepper from Queen’s University Belfast, answered the questions with Professor D’Haen and mentioned, for instance, to what extent crime fiction can be considered a driver of tourism, a theme that will be discussed later in the conference.
In the afternoon, several panels took place in rooms A, B and C of the conference:
PARALLEL SESSION 1
Panel A1: New Takes on Mediterranean Noir
Mentioning Mediterranean noir writers like Andrea Camilleri (whose stories are set in Vigata, Italy), Manuel Vázquez Montalbán (Barcelona, Spain) and Batya Gur (Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel), this panel reflected on the terms “Mediterranean crime fiction” and “Mediterranean noir”, always highlighting their contribution to the crime fiction genre at large. Even though it is usually challenging to go from local to global, from the nation to the world, attempts to go beyond the national approach in research have been made and similarities among different crime fiction traditions, like the Scandinavian one, have been spotted. In the geopolitical region of the Mediterranean, since the ancient Greeks, the literary and cultural dynamics of the Mare Nostrum have been significant, as the very Latin name immediately evokes the movement of people, history and cultures.
Panel B1: New Takes on Nordic Noir
Mentioning a series like the British Nordic noir “Marcella” (2016-present), this panel reflected on how the character of Marcella Backland reflects the pained city of London, littered with bodies and, besides the dead, full of “moribund zombie-like workers”, including DS Backland herself. The scripts, written in Swedish and then translated into English, criticize the economic system of the UK, describing the capital as an “ignominious expression of violence… hidden beneath ideology, mundanity and the suspension of critical thought” (Springer and Le Billon 2016): “Marcella is, in many ways, a product of what it condemns”. Then, the choice of the setting, which is “one of the biggest, most challenging metropolises in the world” meant that it would potentially be a “hit here [in the UK] and in America” (Larder 2019), perhaps introducing the more easily exportable label of “London noir”.
Panel C1: A Tale of Three Cities: Crime and the Urban Tissue in Contemporary Fiction
Mentioning Loriano Macchiavelli’s literature, primarily set in the historic centre of Bologna, this panel retraced the geopoetics of the noir identity of the same Italian city to give an example of a so-called “edge city”. Noirisation and fictionalisation of places often lead to various levels and forms of historical, social and political depth. When real and fictional places come to coexist, fans may even want to visit them, constituting yet another source of enjoyment. Riding the hybridization of reality and fictional universes, Bolognese noirists like Macchiavelli have succeeded in exploiting even the symbolic potential of Bologna: in so doing, even street names prove to be germs that can blossom into stories. And when the construction of the place is so powerful and vivid, in later novels or chapters even some tiny details are enough to perceive the noir atmosphere.
PARALLEL SESSION 2
Panel A2: French Noir and the Transformations of European Crime Fiction
As a symbol of humanity’s quest for truth, the figure of the journalist is a crucial one in contemporary noir fiction, sometimes becoming part of wide imagery of a more inquisitorial process. Even when the journalist gets closer to being a spy or when he investigates conspiratorial tendencies, it proves to be an indeed fascinating trend to analyze. The comeback of James Bond in 2006, for instance, shows how “spies had to be, in a way, more noir in order to be successful”. This panel reflected on how noir fiction is the heir of criminal and urban mystery of the XIX century yet showing a strong realistic aim. In this sense, realism can be interpreted as aesthetics but also as a cognitive process. By paying attention to some metaphors that Frédéric Paulin or Dominique Manotti have always used to describe their quest as noir writers, we can also spot the obsessive presence of the image of the underground world (“bas-fond”) exactly as in the urban mystery of the XIX century.
Panel B2: Crime Films and National Identities. The Case of Greece
Through the analysis the period between 1966 and 2004, strongly marked by immigration flows, redistribution of political power and also new forms of entertainment, studies on “Modernisation noir” in Greece have shown how Athens, becoming a space of multiethnic conversation, boasts filmmakers with greater awareness and even crime TV series with growing popularity. Nevertheless, talking specifically about adapting literature to cinema or TV, there is still little adaptation, for instance, of the greatest Greek noir writer Petros Markarīs, although his stories have proved to be very good for the small screen, but less easy to export abroad. One of the reasons is the authorial tradition of Greece: filmmakers write their own scripts and most creators are also writers; likewise, on the production side of things, the budget restrictions discourage the purchase of rights.
Panel C2: The Black Rome. The Eternal City as Protagonist of Crime Narrative
Analysing the very complex concept of “Romanità” (Romanism, i.e. the idea of Rome) in terms of journalistic coverage and audience’s perception, this panel aimed to show the link between them, all starting from case studies from Italian TV series like “Distretto di polizia” (2000-2012), “Suburra” (2017-2020) and “Rocco Schiavone” (2016-present), which are all set in Rome or otherwise involve Roman characters. Talking about the media in relation to setting, in both “Suburra” and “Rocco Schiavone” we can observe “a transferred idea of Romanism from periphery to the city centre” or, especially in the second case, “from Rome to other cities”. Talking about the audience’s perception, instead, and in relation to characters, it seems that Romanism strongly depends on Roman actors and accent: Romanism, in fact, is “a way of thinking, living and speaking”. When asked to express the level of influence they perceived from the journalistic sources, most of the respondents of a survey answered “Little” and 1 out of 4 answered “Not at all”, so it can be concluded that “the TV series represent the real Romanism storytelling more than the journalistic coverage”.