The Inklings and Culture: A Feast of Brilliant Scholarship

The Inklings and Culture: Monika B. Hilder, Sara L. Pearson, Laura N. Van Dyke, Monika B. Hilder, Sara L. Pearson, Laura N. Van Dyke: 9781527560147: BooksOne 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.

The twenty-seven chapters together present a rich harvest indeed, with a stunning array of contributions from scholars who hail from Canada, the United States, and further afield. Some, like Michael Ward, author of the bestselling Planet Narnia, may already be well-known to readers. Other chapters may introduce readers to before-now unexplored authors and encourage further exploration of their research and writing. Inklings Institute | Monika Hilder

The collection is organized into four sections: Literary Influences, The Christian Imagination, Artistic Responses, and Contemporary and Theological Issues. There is something here for every reader, exploring profound and thoughtful insights into the work of these profound and thoughtful authors.  There is also a useful chronology that traces life and literary events from the birth of George MacDonald, in 1824, to the death of Owen Barfield, the last Inkling, in 1997. The entire volume is nicely bookended by Dr. Hilder’s wonderful introduction, which both sets the stage for the chapters that follow and provides useful context for those less familiar with the Inklings, and by her timely Chapter Twenty-Seven, “Identity Theft: Reading the Signs of the Times in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia.”

Every one of the essays offers something valuable, and there is no “weak link” in the chain at all, but there are some chapters that are particularly strong and some topics that I found particularly compelling. Some that were the most engaging for me, as a C.S Lewis scholar, include Murray J. Evans’s look at C.S. Lewis and Coleridge, Michael Ward’s examination of “C. S. Lewis on Love in the Literary Arts,” Norm Klassen’s look at Lewis and “creatureliness” in A Preface to Paradise Lost, and Dominic Mangaiello’s and Katharine Bubel’s treatments of different aspects of my favorite of Lewis’s works, Till We Have Faces. Each of these chapters enriched and challenged my knowledge and appreciation of Lewis. I was also deeply impressed by Matthew Steem’s chapter, “G.K. Chesterton and the Artistic Endeavor” ( I do have a cat named Father Brown, after all) and Hannah Hempstead’s “Dorothy L. Sayers’s Eschatological Imagination”; I enjoyed the richness of the analysis and learning more about these authors and filling in the gaps of my own knowledge.

Till We Have Faces: Lewis, C. S., Eichenberg, Fritz (illustrator): Books

Other readers might find other chapters to be the most enlightening, and that is one of the many advantages of this lovely collection. Whether one wants to know more about the literary influence upon Inkling members, their correspondences with each other, or the way modern media tries (and fails) to deliver the messages of their texts, this is the place to look.

The Inklings and Culture: A Harvest of Scholarship from the Inklings Institute of Canada is a bountiful harvest indeed, providing a table groaning with riches to satisfy a wide variety of tastes. If you have the opportunity to sit down at this banquet of delights, you will not be disappointed by any of the dishes that you experience here.




  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says

    Thanks for this! I saw an announcement about this, somewhere, and it is good to read a review. It seems sensible that it includes not only the major ‘Inklings’ but what the Wade Center at Wheaton College attends to as ‘the Seven’, going back two generations to MacDonald and one to Chesterton, and bringing in that friendly associate of Lewis and Williams, Dorothy L. Sayers. The publisher’s link tells me it is 411 pages, and you mention 27 chapters – which does sound quite a harvest. I’m a little surprised that the publisher’s website does not yet have a complete list of authors and titles, which is always handy – as well as tantalizing! I hope good – and not only academic – libraries are taking notice, which will widen the circle of readers.

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