The Inklings and Culture: A Feast of Brilliant Scholarship

One of the great joys of my work with authors like Rowling, Lewis, and others is the opportunity to interact with remarkable scholars from all over the world, and one scholar whose work never fails to impress me is Dr. Monika B. Hilder, Professor of English at Canada’s Trinity Western University. Among other accomplishments, she is the co-founder and co-director of the Inklings Institute of Canada, a remarkable group of scholars that has just produced an incredible collection of essays that is well worth the attention of any reader of the Inklings.

The Inklings and Culture: A Harvest of Scholarship from the Inklings Institute of Canada, published by Cambridge Scholars Publishing, and edited by Hilder as well as Sara L. Pearson and Laura N. VanDyke has something for everyone who enjoys the work of the most well-known Inklings, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, as well as that of less famous (to the general reader) members,  “de facto” Inklings members, and honorary or “proto-Inklings” like Charles Williams, Owen Barfield,  Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, and G.K. Chesterton. [Read more…]

Farewell, Walter Hooper, Protector of C.S. Lewis’s Literary Legacy

When C.S. Lewis died in Oxford in late November, 1963, there was very little international furor, because the man who invented Narnia had the great misfortune to pass from this earth within the same twenty-four-hour period that saw Lee Harvey Oswald assassinate President Kennedy in Dallas (Aldous Huxley also died that day, also with little fanfare). Ironically, yesterday, December 7, 2020, Walter Hooper, secretary to Lewis and editor of many of his works, passed through the Stable Door and into the real Narnia. And I almost didn’t hear about it.

[Read more…]

Happy Birthday Gilderoy Lockhart! Pride as a Real and Fictional Flaw

We sometimes hear the word “pride” tossed around so much that it just becomes another slogan. People are encouraged to be proud of everything from their sports teams to their genetic make-up. However, this week, after a wonderful sermon on why pride is a problem (thanks, Pastor Alan), I re-read the first sentence of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, a line that is surprisingly Image result for gilderoy lockhart harry potterrevealing, and I began to ponder pride a little more in terms of its role as a spiritually corrosive force in fantasy literature, just as it is in life. So, let’s visit that deadly sin that rears its ugly head around so many real and fictional corners.

Pride, not to be confused with self-respect or satisfaction with a job well done, is a sin that is ridiculously common among human beings.  No less a personage than Benjamin Franklin pointed out that if we think we have really overcome pride, then we will become proud of our humility. We are, by our very nature, easily drawn into pride. Perhaps that is why it is such an effective element to characterize fictional people. By creating characters who suffer from the sin of pride, authors can make these characters more believable while, at the same time, using that pride to make readers dislike them. For, strangely enough, although everyone has succumbed to pride, it tends to be an easy sin for us to condemn, even while we are guilty of it ourselves.

[Read more…]

Jack the Giant Slayer: Someone’s Been Reading My Spenser!

We love fairy tales around here, as I suppose everyone knows. I have an author friend who evaluates people’s personalities based on their favorite fairy tales (hers is Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”; mine is “Cherry the Frog Bride,” in case you are wondering). I have to confess, “Jack and the Beanstalk” has never really been one of my favorites, even in its Appalachian incarnations of “Jack and the Bean Tree” or “Jack and the Giants”; perhaps goofy Jack just always seemed like too much a klutz for my taste. Maybe I just never approved of his kleptomania. But I’ve gained a different perspective, after finally seeing Jack the Giant Slayer (2013). Join me after the jump for more on how Hollywood got some things really right with this one, and how someone did some good reading, particularly from the works of some of my favorite tellers of tales: the immortal Edmund Spenser and his protégé, C.S. Lewis.
[Read more…]

Reclaiming the “Discarded Image”: Guest Review of Dr. Monika Hilder’s The Feminine Ethos in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia

Last year, I had the great honor of writing the preface for a new and fascinating book by a delightful scholar. Unfortunately, since I wrote the Preface, it might be in poor taste for me to write the glowing review I would like post so that everyone would check out this fantastic contribution to Lewis Studies. So instead, I recruited my friend and fellow Narnian, the brilliant Ralph Lentz, to review the book. He produced this amazing essay, which I am proud to share. I believe his talents may be just as useful in English as they are in the History Department. We may steal him yet. Enjoy!

Reclaiming the “Discarded Image”:
Monika B. Hilder’s The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia
A Theological Review by Ralph E. Lentz II, Appalachian State University

C. S. Lewis wrote, by his faith and his studies, from a pre-Modern thought-world that was not schizophrenic—from a world that did not divide faith and reason, the natural and supernatural, fact and value. As a Medievalist, Lewis had digested the Whole, from Thomas Aquinas’ notion that grace perfects nature, to Nicholas of Cusa’s idea of the “coincidence of opposites.” In her brilliant new book The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia (Peter Lang, 2012), Monika B. Hilder reveals Lewis’s dedication to this pre-Modern, orthodox Christian vision of an integrated world of beautiful paradox. And, following Lewis, she does it in a wonderfully imaginative and subversive way by focusing on what she calls “theological feminism” (12, et passim.). Through her analysis of all seven books of the Narnia series, Hilder demonstrates how Lewis, far from being chauvinist and misogynistic (as some critics have charged), actually challenges the pagan conception of power based on force and the twisted image of sexuality that it supports. In contrast, Lewis’s use of “theological feminism” points to “another City”[1] where the “sword between the sexes” has been cast away, and where the contraries of Male and Female can become one without confusion or contradiction (cf. Genesis 2:24). A model of careful analysis, comprehensive scholarship, and eloquence, the book itself merits a substantial review—particularly in light of its theological implications. Hence the purpose of the present essay.
[Read more…]