I have just registered for Mythmoot III: Ever On. This is the Mythgard Institute’s annual conference. Please check it out; I would love to see you there! You can read about my experience last year here, on Curator, where I reviewed both of the first two Hobbit films. The themes of the conference this year are:
- Tolkien in the 21st century– how Tolkien’s works are being engaged with by new generations of fans
- Out of this World – Traditional and new angles on fantasy and science fiction
- A Game of Games– analysis of fantasy/sci fi gaming from pen-and-paper to MMORPGs;
Here is my proposal for a paper on The Chapel of the Thorn:
How to Handle the Hallows:
Editing a 100-year-old play for the 21st century
On June 8th, 2012, I held in my hands a 100-year-old manuscript. No one else had touched it since it was deposited in the archives of the Marian E. Wade center at Wheaton College, Illinois, in 1973. It was The Chapel of the Thorn: A Dramatic Poem—a two-act play by Charles Williams, the oddest Inkling. This little drama is among the earliest of Williams’s works, yet deals with the topic that would fill his writings all the way through his writings: How to handle a sacred relic, or, more metaphorically, how to respond to spiritual realities. In this way, The Chapel of the Thorn is “out of this world” (dealing with the supernatural). It is also a locus of traditional, Christian approaches to fantasy, and more specifically to matters on the edge of Arthurian legend: the Crown of Thorns in this play is a kind of metonym for the Holy Grail, which is in its turn a synecdoche for all objects and actions of Christ’s passion, and characters’ responses to these physical items are revelatory of their eternal salvific or damnatory condition. I intend to describe how I came upon this MS, the process of transcribing it, the story of finding and working with a publisher, the content of the play, its contents and quality, and its ongoing relevance for our times—and thus to take a topic that is out of this world and use it to argue for a reading of the Inklings in the 21st century.