FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: January 31, 2001
Contact: Cheryl D. Peck
UIS history, English professors combine talents to write book
SPRINGFIELD - Lord Peter Wimsey - amateur detective, man of fashion, talented musician, and wealthy intellectual - is known to legions of readers. His enduring presence and popularity is a tribute to his creator, Dorothy L. Sayers, who brought Lord Peter to life during "the long week-end" between the first and Second World Wars, as British aristocracy began to change, making way for a modern world.
So reads the description on the jacket flap of a new book, Conundrums for the Long Week-End, written by two University of Illinois at Springfield professors, Robert Kuhn McGregor and Ethan Lewis. In this engaging book, the authors explore how renowned mystery writer Sayers uses her fictional hero, Lord Wimsey, to comment on, and come to terms with, the social upheaval between the First and Second World Wars. The book has been published by The Kent State University Press.
"Conundrums uses Lord Wimsey to understand the years between the wars - the crumbling of the privileged aristocracy, the rise of democracy, and the expanding struggle of women for equality," said McGregor, who is a professor of history. Wimsey is a shell-shocked war hero who often thinks about how Sherlock Holmes might handle the case. McGregor said the book uses Holmes and Wimsey as examples of popular literature and how they reflected the cultural attitudes of the time.
Lewis, an associate professor of English, said the book is also about the history of England as well as a biographical analysis of Sayers' work. "Sayers was vitally interested in the changes taking place around her. Absorbing the spirit of her times, she interpreted its meaning and provided a running chronicle of the emergent culture," said Lewis. Four years ago, while teaching a course together called The Great War and the Birth of Modern Culture, McGregor and Lewis decided to write the book. "That course explored how World War I created a great gulf in western cultural history and a great crisis in confidence. The war literally exploded previously held beliefs of a more orderly world and gave rise to an increasing response to the power of the irrational," Lewis said, noting that Lord Wimsey is an example of someone who tried to put the world back together after the war.
During a 16-month period, McGregor wrote the chapters and Lewis prepared working papers to incorporate into the chapters. "From this process I really discovered how to write a book," commented Lewis, who credits McGregor with teaching him the ropes.
The book is intended to appeal to a wide audience. "We're not writing for scholars but for educated readers who want to read Sayers and are interested in the social history of the Twentieth Century," McGregor said.
McGregor is also the author of A Wider View of the Universe: Henry Thoreau's Study of Nature (University of Illinois Press, 1997).
For more information, please contact McGregor at 206-7442, or Lewis at 206-7436.