Penn State

Carol A. Miller - Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders and Linguistics, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Gaudy Night

Author: Dorothy L. Sayers

Book Description:

I first read this novel as a young teenager, and I've read it many times since. As I've grown older and progressed through my career, it has gained more and more meaning for me. Although it is a detective novel with a compelling mystery, that mystery centers around a violation of academic integrity. Dorothy Sayers, herself an academic, forces the reader to consider important questions.  What constitutes intellectual integrity, and is it separate from personal integrity?  How should the academic community respond to violations of its ethical standards? Can one fully live both the life of the mind and the life of the heart, or will they always conflict? Is the answer different for men and for women? When I was younger, I struggled to understand why these questions were so hard for the characters to answer. The novel was written in the 1930s, when it was still unusual for women to obtain college degrees and choose academic careers. It took me a long time to understand the conflicts that the characters faced, but I've learned a great deal from trying to understand. I'm grateful that today, it is much easier for a woman, or anyone, to have a fulfilling career in academe and fulfilling personal relationships, but by working through the things that have changed -- and those that have not changed -- since the 1930s, I've come to a better appreciation of my own career choices, and the significance of intellectual honesty.


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