Dr. Chris Willerton, associate professor of English, hosted a lecture night investigating detective fiction and a faculty game of Clue on Tuesday, as a part of the fourth-annual Culp Professor Reading.
Serving as ACU’s sixth Culp Professor, Dr. Willerton presented the spring report on his featured project, Detective Fiction and Christian Values.
Willerton’s featured project is in conjunction with his serving as the James W. Culp Distinguished Professor of English, a position created to honor those professors who are a worthy role model and mentor for faculty colleagues.
“My research question is whether Christians read detective fiction in a distinctive way. My methodology is reader-response criticism. The product I hope for is a book about the topic. I am already reading conference papers about it and have begun publishing articles based on those papers.”
Willerton said the lecture presented snapshots of the writers and his research trips, while he spoke briefly about three of the fictional detectives he is studying. In addition, the night featured a game of “Faculty Clue,” with professors Dr. Steven Moore, Dr. Steve Weathers, Prof. Al Haley, and Prof. Carolyn Thompson from the Department of Language and Literature as the game’s suspects.
“I invited them to the skit because they’re bright, creative people. Weathers and Haley are fiction writers, and all four are colorful teachers. I’ll demand that each character give an alibi and we’ll have fun seeing what they come up with. There’s a plot line (and I guarantee the murder will be solved), but no script. So expect some improv,” Willerton said.
Haley, associate professor of English, served as the previous Culp Professor. He created the tradition of organizing an annual spring report on the Culp Professor’s featured project.
“Writing and research is a very isolated undertaking. I thought the first benefit of having an annual reading would be for me.It gave me a way to emerge from my metaphorical hole in the ground and share my words with an audience and maybe even get some feedback,” Haley said.
“I also thought it was only fair to try to give back something to the people who were supporting me as the Culp Professor. That’s why I thought it would be nice to structure it as an entertaining and fun night out,” he said.
For Willerton, his presentation focused on the academic and entertainment values of detective literature, and how Christians should approach them both.
“Christians are naive if they separate ‘serious’ literature and film from ‘entertainment’ literature and film. They tend to think the serious stuff will improve them morally and the entertainment will not hurt them,” he said. “There is a running discussion on this at ACU. So how do Christians process them?Are they affected by them? What does it tell us that so many Christians choose mysteries to read or see for fun?”