John Speaking in New York City this Friday Night: Literary Alchemy and C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy

HogPro Alert! I have been invited to speak at the New York C. S. Lewis Society meeting this Friday night, 11 January 2008, and you are all invited. There will be no cover charge at the door and refreshments will be served after I talk (as good as those goodies are, the conversation is much better). If I run over time, I’m told, refreshments will be served during my talk.

The night’s topic is “C. S. Lewis and Literary Alchemy in the Ransom Trilogy” and I’m hoping to do three things in just under an hour: introduce literary alchemy as a stream in the river of English literature, explain why it is likely that Lewis was more familiar with the symbols and artistry of this tradition than any writer of the modern period, and, the big jump, that Lewis’ Ransom Trilogy or ‘Space Novels’ is an alchemical trilogy much as the Chronicles of Narnia are an astrological seven book set. I’ll be focusing on Perelandra, the second Ransom novel, both because it is the book in the set most readers I know remember clearly and because the alchemy of it is relatively transparent.

I hope you all will jump in your private jets and come! Here are the details from the website in case you can get there:

» Starting at 7:30 and breaking for refreshments at 9:00 pm
» At the Parish House of The Church of the Ascension,
» 12 West 11th St, Manhattan, NY
» Closest Subway: 14th St. Union Square
» On-street parking starts at 6:30 pm

If you cannot make it this Friday, you should make plans to come next month. I am really just the opening act for discussion of Lewis as hermetic artist; in February, Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis, will be speaking about his new book.

In a way, this talk will bring things full circle for me. My Harry Potter adventure began with discussions of Ms. Rowling’s novels with friends in the Port Townsend, WA, C. S. Lewis Society, especially Stephen Schumacher and Richard Watson. Except for their encouragement and invitation to give a talk on the subject at one of their meetings, there would never have been a Hidden Key to Harry Potter or a Hogwarts Professor. This Friday’s talk will be on a larger stage and before an audience including folks who have published on and taught about Lewis for decades but, if my experience at November’s N.Y. C. S. Lewis Society meeting is any measure, I expect it to be the same kind of challenging, friendly symposium as the Port Townsend meetings were. Please do come if you live in the metropolitan area!

Here is a Narnia note to close this C. S. Lewis post: as many of you are no doubt aware, the Prince Caspian movie trailer is available online. Check out this “wish list” for that film posted by a hopeful Narnian in hopes that those making the final cuts wil see it and the thoughts of Regina Doman on the same flick. My children are already very excited about it; the movie is released before our springtime family day (24 May: our wedding anniversary and Methodios’ birth and Names Day) and our tunnel into the movie theatre should be done by then so we can afford to see it.

See you Friday night!


  1. Rats! I’m on the wrong side of the country. Now if this were going to be in Port Townsend, I could make a good try at getting there. Any chance that you will share your talk with us here? That would be great–I’ll even provide my own goodies, and share with everyone else. (Right now we have way too much chocolate in this house which isn’t helping my feeble attempts at losing weight.)

    I still haven’t read the space trilogy–I’ll have to order it since my book store never seems to have it available, or at least not all three.

    It’s been quite a journey for you, John, since those first days when you started talking about Harry Potter, hasn’t it? And I’m glad that we’ve all had the chance to join you, in some small part, along the way.


  2. If this is related to the wonderful talk you gave at the Past Watchful Dragons conference, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Anyone who can attend really should consider it a “must see” presentation! Best wishes with it.

  3. I second Eeyore’s “rats!” in that, while on the right side of the country, I’m on the wrong end….you really should come to Florida, John. It’s lovely this time of year…

  4. Wish I had that private jet you mentioned to cross the Atlantic and hear you!

    (Bergen, Norway)

  5. meredithlom says

    I was at the event, and I wanted to say thank you. While the alchemy of the Ransom trilogy and Perelandra hadn’t been my central consideration in my reading of it, your analysis was so clear. (Definitely, as you put it, “aha!”). When I first read Perelandra, I was a “new” Christian…not really new, per se, because I had been “raised that way” but new in the sense that I was considering what it really meant to be a Christian in the midst of my liberal, large public university education, and I was trying to refine my own nascent faith into something pure, and hard, and lasting. I was perhaps exactly the reader Lewis was looking for.

    Anyway, this is all to say that your talk tonight made all the Perelandra pieces hang together for me even better — literary, theoretical, spirtual. — and helped to give me new perspective on modern meaning of not merely this work, but Lewis and beyond, in, as you put it, this post-modern world.

  6. Professor, Is this going to be available in electons here or shall we unfortunates have to await a hard copy?

    Here’s and article of interest in SLATE regarding the sorts of activities that we engage in and legal considerations…

    JK Rowling’s Dark Mark


    J.K. Rowling’s Dark Mark
    Why she should lose her copyright lawsuit against the Harry Potter Lexicon.
    By Tim Wu
    Posted Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008, at 7:59 AM ET
    As I wrote in October, over the last few years, the relationship between fan-written Web sites and the copyright owners of the content they draw on, if legally murky, has at least been peaceful. Once it dawned on media companies that fan sites are the kind of marketing that they usually pay hard cash for, they generally left the fans alone. But things turned sour in the fall, when the Harry Potter Lexicon Web site announced plans to publish a book version of its fan-written guide to the Potter world. Author J.K. Rowling and publisher Warner Brothers have sued the Lexicon for copyright infringement, exposing the big unanswered question: Are fan guides actually illegal?

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