Janet McCracken

Tuesday, September 8, 2020 at 7 p.m. Janet McCracken, Professor of Philosophy, Lake Forest College, “Perry Mason as Greek Tragedy,” in Perry Mason and Philosophy.
About Perry Mason and Philosophy: In 1933 the crime writer Erle Stanley Gardner, himself a practicing lawyer, unleashed the character Perry Mason in the novel The Case of the Velvet Claws. Perry Mason entered into public consciousness as a new conception of the role of the defense lawyer, so that millions of Americans came to expect every criminal trial to have its “Perry Mason moment.” In the 1950s the Perry Mason TV show had a phenomenal success, and Mason came to be identified with Raymond Burr. Now Perry Mason has again been restored to life in the HBO series starring Matthew Rhys and John Lithgow. Meanwhile, the eighty-two original Erle Stanley Gardner novels continue to sell thousands of copies each week. Perry Mason gave America a new conception of the trial lawyer, as someone who was always loyal to his client and always prepared to use dirty tricks such as misdirection and withholding of evidence to protect the innocent and secure the ends of Justice. The Mason of the novels is less scrupulous than the Raymond Burr Mason, and would sometimes be in danger of going to jail if the trial didn’t turn out right–which it always did, largely because of Mason’s cleverness. The Perry Mason icon raises many philosophical issues explored by seventeen different philosophers.
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