60 birthday alexa

C.S. Lewis on 'The Place of the Lion'.

        
    "On 26 February 1936 Lewis wrote to Arthur Greeves: 'I have
  just read what I think is a really great book, "The Place of
  the Lion" by Charles Williams. It is based on the Platonic
  theory of the other world in which the archetypes of all
  earthly qualities exist: and in the novel these archetypes
  start sucking our world back. The lion of strength appears in
  the world and the strength starts going out of houses and
  thing into him. The archtypal butterfly (enormous) appears and
  all the butterflies of the world fly back into him. But every
  man contains and ought to be able to rule these forces: and
  there is one man in the book who does... The reading of it has
  been a good preparation for Lent as far as I am concerned: for
  is shows me (through the heroine) the special sin of the abuse
  of intellect to which all in my profession are liable, more
  clearly than I ever saw it before. I have learned more than I
  ever knew yet about humility. Do get it, and don't mind if you
  don't understand everything the first time. It deserves
  reading over and over again. It isn't often nowadays you get a
  Christian fantasy."
Source: Carpenter 1978:99.
dennilton gates

The company they keep: book review

The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community by Diana Pavlac Glyer


My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Several books and articles have been written about the literary group known as the Inklings, but this is one of the best and most informative.

The Inklings were a group of friends who met in Oxford to read to each other, and criticise each other's work. There were 19 members of the group, though they were not all present at every gathering, and joined and left at various times. At the core of the group was C.S. Lewis, and most of the other members were his friends. Among the most active members were C.S. Lewis's brother Warren Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and Owen Barfield. The book has an appendix listing all 19, with a potted biography of each.

Glyer shows how the members of the group influenced one another, and challenges the view of many scholars that there was no such influence. She notes that an entire generation of scholars was discouraged from studying or asserting mutual influence among the Inklings when C.S. Lewis warned a correspondent who asked about influence among the Inklings that he should not "waste time" on a "barren field". Glyer argues that there was a tendency to confuse influence with imitation. "In claiming that Tolkien was not influenced by Lewis, for example, scholars typically mean that his sub-created world does not resemble Malacandra and his creative aesthetic is different from that which envisioned Narnia."

The Inklings were not a literary school with a common point of view, and they sometimes disagreed vehemently over the merits of each other's works. Tolkien disliked Lewis's Narnia stories, Hugo Dyson poured scorn on Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Nevertheless, they did influence one another, not merely in the comments on the work that was read, but in joint literary endeavours, in dedicating their work to each other, reviewing each other's work, and occasionally recommending it to publishers.

The negative attitude towards influence is a relatively recent phenomenon, and is a result of post-Enlightenment individualism, where there is an excessive concern for originality and "genius". Barfield explained that the concept of independent creativity emerged well after the Renaissance. Before the Renaissance "genius" is a spirit-being other than the poet himself, and they would say "he has a genius". After the Renaissance the inspiration is seen as part of the poet himself and we say "he is a genius".

Lewis and Tolkien agreed that if they wanted to see the kind of stories they liked, they would have to write them themselves, and this influenced Lewis to write his space trilogy, though Tolkien never completed his contribution, which was to be based on time. To children who wrote to ask Lewis to write more Narnian stories, he replied that he had no more to say, but there was plenty of room for them to contribute their own.

Glyer concludes "I am persuaded that writers do not create text out of thin air in a fit of personal inspiration. I believe that the most common and natural expressions of creativity occur as part of an ongoing dialogue between writers, readers, texts, and contexts. This truth is exemplified by the weekly meetings of the Inklings. It is manifest in their relationships with family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. And it is expressed in many of their own statements about the creative process. As Williams reminds us, an emphasis on isolated individuals must give way to an interactive view of life, culture and creativity."

I think Glyer makes a very good case for this, and I recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed reading anything written by the Inklings. It gives new insights into their lives and their works.


View all my reviews >>

Also posted on my Khanya blog, with some additional comments.
60 birthday alexa

Recent reading: The Arthurian handbook

The Arthurian Handbook The Arthurian Handbook by Norris J. Lacy


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The stories of King Arthur are among the most enduring legends in English literature, not to mention French, German and other literatures as well. As the authors note in the preface to the second edition, "in the period 1990-95, and in English alone, well over eighty Arthurian novels and even more short stories were published, and the flood shows no signs of abating."

The authors do not claim to be able to record every title in this flood; to do so would be to make the book nothing more than a bibliography. They concentrate on the more important and significant works.

But the point of such a book is that one is quite likely to come across references or allusions to the Arthurian legend in books that one reads, and so some familiarity with the main features of the legend are useful, and this is what this book provides. It has chronologies of the main works published, including non-literary works, like painting, sculpture, film and more. If gives family trees of Arthur (all different) from the major works. And it gives a brief description of the various works that convey the Arthurian story. At the end there is a glossary, giving the names and roles of the main characters, and their various forms, and the way they are portrayed in various works.

I've read about the Arthurian legend in several books, and allusions to it in several others. One is C.S. Lewis's That hideous strength. The Arthurian element is obvious in the case of Merlin, but for a long time "Mr Fisher-King" quite escaped me.

I tried reading Malory and Tennyson's versions, but found it difficult to see the wood for the trees. This book helps one to follow the thread through the longer works, and also points out some of the inconsistencies. Sir Kay is a villain, or at best a bumbling jobsworth in some versions of the story, but in others, as Sir Cai, he is a hero.

So I've found it a good read, and I'll be going back through it to make notes before I take in back to the library.

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60 birthday alexa

Roy Campbell, the Bloomsbury Group and C.S. Lewis

I've been reading Virginia Woolf's A writer's diary, and got curious about why it never mentioned Roy Campbell, the poet, who had at one point been associated with the Bloomsbury group, and so got out Joseph Pearce's biography of Roy Campbell to refresh my memory, and found I had almost completely forgotten the tangled web of relationships -- that Roy Campbell's wife Mary was in love with Vita Nicholson (nee Sackville-West) and that the Campbells had gone to live in a cottage on the Sackville-West estate.

But Virginia Woolf was also in love with Vita, and had written her Orlando in a fit of jealousy over Vita's relationship with Mary Campbell. None of that comes out in the (edited) version of the diary. And when he found out about the affair, on 6 November 1927, Roy Campbell went off by train to London, to drown his sorrows in drink. He met C.S. Lewis in a pub, and drinking with him, told him all about it (Pearce 2001:90), and when Lewis remarked "Fancy being cuckolded by a woman" Campbell rushed back to Kent in a rage, and thereafter came to despise the Bloomsbury group, and drew closer to Evelyn Waugh and D.B. Wyndham Lewis, and told Lytton Strachey, who advocated detachment, "Strachey, you are about as detached, morally, physically and intellectually as the animal you most resemble". "What is that?" asked Strachey. "A tapeworm," replied Campbell (Pearce 2001:95).
dennilton gates

National Novel-Writing Month

It's that time of the year again...

Next month is National Novel-Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

And once again I want to challenge readers of this forum to write a Charles Williams-type novel. Not necessarily trying to imitate his style, but rather a novel in the same genre.

Click here if you want to join NaNoWriMo,

it doesn't serve a great and fancy purpose -- just nags you to get something written -- at least 50 000 words in the month of November.

And if you want to talk about it, you can do so here, or on the Neo-Inklings Mailing List.
nikita: toasting, nikita: victory

The Horse & His Boy: Chapter by Chapter Review

Hello everyone! I hope no one minds a little self-advertising :P. I’m doing a chapter by chapter recap/meta of all the books in the Chronicles of Narnia. I’m starting with The Horse and His Boy and I have about 8 chapters down so far.

I’d really love to get into discussions over this book and the Chronicles in general. I think we might all have a lot of fun. You can find them here:

Narnia Chapter-By-Chapter.
60 birthday alexa

Eucharistic theology and witch hunts

Some time ago I think we had a discussion here about changes in Western Eucharistic theology in the 12 century and the popularity of the legend of the Holy Grail in the same period.

I've posted something that touches on this in my Khanya blog, which may interest some in this community. It deals with an inversion of the understanding of the term "Body of Christ" in Western theology, with links to several other blog posts on the topc.