Nancy Drew conference detected

February 17, 2007|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Framed against a pink background, dozens of the same pretty blonde girl bounced on the chest of Michael Cornelius as he spoke.

"I was 9 years old when I read my first book, and I have been hooked ever since," Cornelius said. "I have over 600 of her books."

Twisting at his neck, the familiar faces of Nancy Drew disappeared under his collar, and with a wink reappeared out the other side.

"And you have the tie," said Allison Schuette-Hoffman from Valparaiso University in Indiana.

Cornelius smiled at his tie and at the girl whose adventures had brought scholars and "sleuths" from across the United States on Friday to Wilson College for a weekend conference.


Hosted by Wilson College, the conference titled "Nancy Drew and Girl Sleuths: Past, Present, and Future" focused on the Nancy Drew series, and featured papers and presentations by some of Nancy's most devoted readers.

Cornelius, chair of the English department at Wilson College, said he chose to host the conference as a way to bring together readers and scholars of the popular series for an open dialogue of ideas.

With papers ranging from cultural analysis of the series and exploration of the French Nancy Drew books to a "performative creative-nonfiction manifesto," Cornelius said the conference delves into the mystery of Nancy Drew's mysteries.

"To me, it says something profound that not only does Nancy exist, but that 75 years later, she is still read and celebrated as a role model," Cornelius said.

Many of the scholars presenting at the conference investigated the mystery of Nancy's "syndicated" author.

"The books were written by many different ghost writers and were based on the ideas of Edward Stratemeyer," Schuette-Hoffman said. "The author is almost meaningless, almost."

While the Nancy Drew books still can be found in the children's section of most bookstores, Melissa Favara of Clark College in Vancouver, Wash., said Nancy has new and different mysteries for adults who revisit the series.

"I didn't know that Carolyn Keene wasn't the real author until I was 30," Schuette-Hoffman said.

Cornelius said the conference was the second Nancy Drew conference in the United States, but that it should not be the last.

Cornelius presently does not have plans for the next conference, but said, "I will leave it like it says in the books, 'In our next exciting adventure.'"

The conference continues today at the Lenfest Commons at Wilson College.

If you go

What: "Nancy Drew and Girl Sleuths: Past, Present and Future"

When: Today, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Wilson College, Lenfest Commons, Chambersburg, Pa.

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