Myth, Imagination, and Incarnation: Barfield, Tolkien, Lewis and the Oxford Inklings

School of Consciousness and Transformation PAR 6089 3.00

This course explores the remarkable collection of English writers known as the Oxford Inklings, a group of literary friends who produced an astounding body of work throughout the 20th century. In stark contrast to prevailing literary trends, the Inklings and their friends sought to probe the interconnection between a rich literary, mythological imagination on the one hand, and Christian theological, spiritual, and even esoteric teachings on the other. They produced works of theology, history, poetry, philosophy, and criticism alongside supernatural thrillers, autobiography, detective stories, science fiction, spiritual writings, and some of the seminal works of 20th-century fantasy for both children and adults. Their works are often artistically stunning, and many continue to be popular today. The writers to be studied include Owen Barfield, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Dom Bede Griffiths. We will approach their works through philosophical, theological, and literary lenses, seeking both to understand their substantive religious and spiritual visions and to assess how they formally embodied these visions in various genres. Along the way, we will also address a number of questions relevant to students of religion today: Why is it that children’s literature is so often the medium for much contemporary thinking about spirit, ethics, even politics, and other great questions of life? What is the role of fantasy and the imagination in religion, spirituality, and philosophy? How does all of this relate to questions about secularity, disenchantment, re-enchantment, and the consistent return of religion even within the modern age?

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