Breaking the Da Vinci Code: A Professor Weighs In

4-Apr-2006 3:50 PM EDT

Champlain College

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Newswise — When Dan Brown's internationally best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code" was released in March of 2003, the Catholic Church denounced the text as blasphemous. Most recently, the authors of the 1982 nonfiction book "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" sued publisher Random House, Inc., alleging that parts of their work formed the basis of Brown's novel, which has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and remains high on best-seller lists three years after publication. The film version of "The Da Vinci Code," slated for a May 19 release, is further angering the book's detractors. Nancy Nahra, professor of literature and chair of the humanities department at Champlain College, says that "reality doesn't play by the same rules that fiction has to. Dan Brown is having it both ways: getting publicity by infuriating people, but getting away with it because of its fiction label. In any case, people are taking the story too literally." Professor Nahra can discuss:

- The line between fiction and non-fiction, in light of "The Da Vinci Code" and James Frey controversies.

- How the public (Dan Brown supporters and detractors alike) will respond to the film.

- Factual inaccuracies within the text.

- Her recent, private tour of the New York headquarters of Opus Dei—a Catholic organization that is featured in the book.

- The role that opponents of the book have played in generating publicity.

- Whether there is any validity to the lawsuit posed by the pair of authors who claim that Dan Brown plagiarized their ideas. Nancy Nahra is currently writing a book called "Grounding the Da Vinci Code." Also the co-author of four books on the history and culture of the United States as well as of scholarly articles on French literature and history, Nahra has her Ph.D. from Princeton University, an M.A. from Stanford, and currently serves as chair of the Humanities Department at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. A frequent source for media comment, she has been interviewed by Vermont Public Radio, the Vermont CBS television affiliate, and by the Atlanta-based Paula Gordon show, "The Leading Edge," among others. Nancy Nahra has studied in Paris (L'Ecole normale supérieure) and has lived there part time since 1979. As a result, she knows first-hand the places Dan Brown describes in "The Da Vinci Code." She gives frequent public lectures on the book, sponsored by grants from the Freeman Foundation and the Vermont Humanities Council. In addition to teaching at Champlain College, Nahra has also taught in Rome for ten years at John Cabot University, where she is visiting professor of humanities.

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