Faculty Awards Fall 2016 Issue News News: German Studies

The Detective is (not) a Nazi: Professor Bruce Campbell Gives the Tack Lecture!


On OctobDetective_Nazier 27, 2016, our very own Professor of German Studies Bruce Campbell had to honor of giving William and Mary’s Fall 2016 Tack Lecture. To a raucous audience outfitted with black fedoras and party whistles, Professor Campbell described the unique historical context of German detective fiction. “The Detective is (not) a Nazi” explained the fact that during the Nazi era the police functioned as murderers in the name of the state, and how this specific legacy affected received notions of the detective genre and necessitated adaptions for the German literary market. Strategies that writers took included setting their stories outside of Germany or creating detective figures who did not resemble the stereotype: female, gay, much older or much younger that your generic film or TV sleuth. And in contrast to the U.S. tradition especially, the fictional German detectives are largely quiet and law-abiding: “The bottom line here is … after Auschwitz, you couldn’t write a violent German detective,” Professor Campbell said. The lecture, which was broadcast via YouTube, ended with a reception serving up tasty pretzels, bratwurst with mustard, and hot cider!

Campbell was later interviewed about the topic on the NPR show “With Good Reason.”