c.s. lewis, fantasy, inklings, J R R Tolkien, literary criticism, literature, middle earth, narnia, theology
This week I was lucky enough to be invited to give a lecture at Harlaxton College.
It’s a remarkable place, which has been (amongst other things over the last century) a country house and a Jesuit seminary. I was there to give a lecture on one of the topics that I’ve been working on recently: the theological tendencies visible in the fantasies of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I wanted to talk about how we can identify echoes of Christian scripture, practice and theology in Narnia and Middle Earth (by no means a new idea), but also how we can contrast the religious tone and style of the two fantasies. I suggested that Lewis’ technique was more textual, whereas Tolkien’s was more symbolic, and speculated that their religious backgrounds had shaped (in some sense) the kinds of Christian meaning which was found in their fantasies.
I thought the lecture might be of interest, and Harlaxton have kindly recorded it and uploaded to Youtube – I should apologise for the very variable sound quality, caused by me striding around and flapping my hands rather than standing at the podium.
Penelope Wallace said:
It’s an hour long, so I can’t listen now, but what a subject! I’m sure you did it justice.
Very interesting the question about Bombadil. What is the narrative point of Bombadil?
I’m only just considering that for the first time, but he sort of reminds me of some of the medieval hermits; living within self-defined boundaries, concerned with the affairs of his own soul, and having renounced any involvement in any of the affairs of the wider world. There’s a purity to his commitment to his part in the primeval music as it plays out in the life of willow and stream. Perhaps he represents the sort of spirituality that doesn’t find itself defined in grand narratives, and yet still has a part to play in them?
What an interesting idea!