I’m at my earthly Eden again, spending this weekend with some of my favorite people on the planet: it’s MythMoot again! This is the annual gathering hosted by the Mythgard Academy/Signum University, and in the words of Signum’s president, Corey Olsen (The Tolkien Professor), it’s a marriage between an academic conference and the fun of a fan event. The people here are as intelligent and entertaining as those at MythCon back in August, and they’re also a bit more well-groomed and socially adjusted, so that’s good.
So I have had a wonderful time so far. Here are a few highlights.
First, I was honored to have good conversations with Dr, Olsen in which we made some good plans for the next academic year. I am happy to be able to announce that I will be curating a guest lecture series! I’ll be inviting noteworthy scholars of the Inklings, Sci-Fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction. We will be developing some means of crowdsourcing your recommendations for guest and topics, but for now do send me ideas and I’ll add them to my list of considerations.
Yesterday, I have My talk: “How to Handle the Hallows.” Here’s the abstract:
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.
I didn’t talk about even half that stuff, but I was happy with how the talk went. The best part was when Corey Olsen, Dave Kale, & Ed Powell read a selection from the play. They did an excellent job! I hope to post a video of the talk.
In the afternoon, I Moderated a session on “Tolkien and Religion,” with interesting papers on Tolkien and Mormons, Tolkien and early Medieval Catholicism, Tolkien and the “Ubi Sunt” genre (a “where are they now” lament), and about the presence of sorrow in Eucatastrophe.
I’ll post more later!