Detective Work

0 Commentsby   |  03.23.10  |  Announcements, Faculty Spotlight

WadeCWdisplayDr. Chris Willerton is home from a successful research trip to the Midwest and New York. He’s on administrative leave during spring 2010, a reward after 25 years as ACU’s honors director, and is using the opportunity to continue his work in detective fiction and theology.

CW’s first project was interviewing detective writer Terence Faherty in Indianapolis.  Faherty has two series of novels, one featuring amateur detective Owen Keane, a failed seminarian, and the other featuring Scott Elliott, an actor who becomes a Los Angeles sleuth after returning from World War II. Faherty told CW that his Catholicism comes through most strongly when his characters suffer from unconfessed crimes. He puts in enough gunplay and rough language to satisfy his publisher but is most interested in the way his characters use little mysteries to find clues to cosmic mysteries.

CW’s next project was to present a paper, “Dorothy L. Sayers, the Trinity, and the Creative Reader” at the Northeast ConferenceWadeCWreadng on Christianity and Literature, in New York. This was the first CCL regional meeting to feature detective fiction, and it drew papers on Chesterton, Sayers, Collins, Chandler, and even J. K. Rowling.


The photo shows CW meeting the plenary speaker, Dr. Dale Ahlquist, president of the American Chesterton Society. In between sessions, CW hiked across Brooklyn Bridge, visited the site of the World Trade Center, and saw an off-Broadway murder mystery, Perfect Crime.WadeCWbridge

Finally, CW spent three days in the Marion Wade Center at Wheaton College, reading manuscripts and letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, author of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries and translator of Dante. Having written papers extending Sayers’s aesthetics with Reader Response theory, CW focused on her 1941 book The Mind of the Maker and her 1944 lecture “Towards a Christian Aesthetic.” As one critic puts it, Sayers was “highly intelligent, opinionated, and combative,” and CW ended each day’s reading woozy from both her handwriting and her argumentation.WadeCWDLS

WadeCWwardrbThe Wade is an internationally known research center for Lewis, Tolkien, Sayers, Chesterton, Charles Williams, and others associated with the Oxford Christians. Its artifacts include desks used by Tolkien and Lewis and the wardrobe that helped inspire The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the photo, CW inspects an overcoat used by Maj. Warren Lewis (C. S. Lewis’ brother Warnie).

Photo credits: Wade Center photos by Rachel K. Mink, staff. Brooklyn Bridge photo through the kindness of strangers.

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