Suspension in Suspense: Expressions of English Medieval Morality Plays in

Date of Award

Summer 8-29-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Margaret Judith Sullivan

Second Advisor

Inese Racevskis


English medieval morality plays such as Everyman and Mankind have found a voice in G. K. Chesterton’s and Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime literature. The moral vision that Chesterton and Doyle offer is based on medieval morality, but made accessible to popular culture through the literary devices of the detective genre. Both genres communicate essential metaphysical realities and moral principles to the reader. To truly engage in the mystery fiction, the reader must subconsciously but temporarily retire personal notions about morality and accept the traditional morality reflected in the crime story. This suspension of individual ethics and the borrowing of ancient ones allows the reader living in a subjective world to find reassurance in a sovereign standard, thus participating existentially in greater metaphysical realities of the narrative, thereby fulfilling the ultimate objective of literature: the enrichment of the reader’s understanding of human nature.

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