Saturday, August 15, 2009

All Things Considered--The C. S. Lewis Seminar

Last Saturday I was blessed to be able to attend a seminar presented by the NY C. S. Lewis Society. I have known of the society for several years, but have never been able to attend the meetings, or any other events sponsored by the group. But things came together this weekend, and not only did I have Saturday free, but the seminar was only two miles away. I would not miss this one!

The website said that walk-ins were welcome on Saturday, so walk in I did, and I was graciously welcomed. The folks in the society are delightful. The morning began with a choice of several open fora...those in the room were all active in the discussion. It was difficult to choose which of the fora to attend. In the end, I chose a packed room with a lively discussion of The Screwtape Letters, and another group session on the Space Trilogy. Just being in a room full of folks who had read and enjoyed the Space Trilogy was electrifying. I laughed (and so did everyone) when I told the group I had attempted a reading of Out of the Silent Planet right after I had finished the Chronicles of Narnia--when I was 8 years old. No, I did not get far; but I do recall that the first sentence stuck with me--The last drops of the thundershower had hardly ceased falling when the Pedestrian stuffed his map into his pocket..., so that when I picked up the long-forgotten books again at 22, I melted into the first sentence, and immersed myself into yet another world from Lewis' imagination. I have reread them several times, and have the set via Audible...the kids claim these are the creepiest books we have ever enjoyed together. And we have enjoyed them!

One of the participants in the Screwtape discussion described a lesson he does with students after they have read the book (or a bit of it, as he readily admits): Have the students each write a letter as Screwtape...what advice would a devil give his modern "patient?" Again, thinking back on my eight-year-old self, I also recalled asking my father if he had ever heard of C. S. Lewis. "Oh, yes," replied my father, "He wrote The Screwtape Letters." I wondered out loud what that could be about. "It's a set of letters from one fiend to another," my father explained. Well, that surely did not appeal to a second grader. Nor would the college-level assignment. But it would appeal to my older students now.

I attended two other sessions before the main talk in the evening. The first was on The Abolition of Man, with Dr. Christopher Mitchell, Wade Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College (IL). Dr. Mitchell spoke about the work of many Lewis scholars with whom I am not familiar, so I have some reading to do! The other session was on illustrations for the book At the Back of the North Wind, by George MacDonald. I found this particularly engaging, as several weeks ago I gave a talk on nature imagery in children's literature, and cited that very work...but my edition is unillustrated! The speaker, Robert Trexler, had a Powerpoint presentation of the history and social circles of the illustrators, starting with Arthur Hughes and the pre-Raphaelites, and continuing through illustrations from various editions. I shall certainly endeavor to find some older editions just for the sake of the art.

The last speaker, Prof. Pearce, writer-in-residence at Ave Maria University, was a delight. Trip took a summer class with him last year and "liked" it (high praise from out-of-the-silent-teen), but he did not tell us what a charming and fun speaker Prof. Pearce is. His topic, "Narnia and Middle-Earth: When Two Worlds Collude," included some familiar tales of the relationship between Lewis and Tolkien, but he told them is such an engaging way as to make them seem more real.

One more note on Pearce: He told us of some personal--er--matters in his past, and credited Lewis with turning him around (I think that's what he was saying). I have also said that Lewis kept me Catholic. That's the kind of influence Lewis has had on people.

Did I mention that I bought books? I purchased Narnia and Beyond, Remembering C. S. Lewis, and a third book which I seem to have misplaced and the title of which I cannot recall at the moment. Some would say, "too many books!" Ha! And I picked up an issue of Touchstone and the St. Austin Review, both wonderful periodicals.

(Clicking "Publish" though I know there are typos...I'll correct them soon!)


Julie said...

Sounds like a really fun day.

Speaking of the influence of C.S. Lewis, "The Problem of Pain" helped me to understand suffering and the presence of evil in the world.

I studied it during a college seminar class and it helped me make alot of necessary adjustments to my world view:

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

Laura A said...

I've always wanted to go to one of these! I remember reading about them years ago, when I had a three-year-old, and thinking, "One day..."

And Touchstone is a delightful magazine. I read the blog just about every morning while ironing, and particularly look forward to Anthony Esolen's contributions.

MacBeth Derham said...

No excuses, Laura! Bring her with you! I brought Annika.

Julie, I'll have to dig that out and read it. I know it's around here somewhere. Somewhere... ;)