Choose King Arthur’s Cover!

Dear readers! Please go over to 99Designs and vote on your favorite book cover for The Inklings and King Arthur! Here are the four finalists; I’d be happy to hear your comments about what you like, because I can communicate with the artists to make suggestions.


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Mind the Gap: Where Scholarship on C.S. Lewis and other Wade Authors needs some Filling-In

Sunlit Fields

mind-the-gapHello friends. As promised, and long overdue, I am checking in again to write the third and final post on reflections of the C.S. Lewis and Friends Colloquium that took place at Taylor University in June 2016. Posts one and two focused on why I felt the Colloquium embodied a healthy example of academia, and the enjoyment I had of attending as an archivist. This post will focus on a gap in scholarship on C.S. Lewis (and other Wade authors) that I’ve noticed and that I was reminded of at the Colloquium.

Let me start by making 2 observations I’ve had as archivist at the Wade Center over the past 12 years:

    1. First of all, for many years people would come up to me and say: “I’m leading a Bible study group / church group / book discussion group and we’re reading C.S. Lewis’s book: (fill in…

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Signum University Fall Registration

signumLogo_100Hear ye, hear ye!
Fall 2017 registration at Signum University is open! Come peruse our lineup of marvelous classes and make your Sophie’s choice among them – or bravely refuse to do any such thing and simply quit your day job so you can sign up to take them all!
Introducing Writer’s Forge
This year, Signum is offering a new student service: the Writer’s Forge, a writing tutorial program where you can hone your craft, becoming a more effective communicator within Academia at large and in your degree work in particular. The Writer’s Forge can give you confidence in your abilities as a scholar, even if it’s been a while since you tried your hand at a paper.
Signum Advisory Reminder
Don’t forget to take advantage of Signum’s advisory program. If you’re a credit student, contact your Signum Advisor ASAP to discuss your progression in the degree program. We encourage all Signum MA students to give thought to when they will take the Research Methods course specifically, as Signum requires that this class be taken within your first four courses. Everyone else is strongly encouraged to take this course, as it provides fundamental skills and concepts for success in all Signum classes, the M.A. thesis, and future work in the fields of language and literature.
Tuition Announcement
Finally, a short word: you’ll notice when you access the signup forms for your class(es) of choice that tuition has increased slightly: credit courses from $575 to $650, and discussion audits from $425 to $475. President Corey Olsen has a short informational video on the reasons for this increase. In brief, Signum has been growing by leaps and bounds. In the past four years, as the almost entirely volunteer staff has been doing wonders to keep pace with Signum’s promising growth, we’ve been able to keep our tuition steadily low, in keeping with our vision: to make quality higher education affordable and accessible to all! Though our operating costs have enlarged as we’ve grown, we’re proud that this year is the first since 2013 that we’ve needed to introduce a modest tuition increase. And we remain committed to per-credit costs that are far below any equivalent degree programs out there.
Signum’s Fall Course Offerings
Each course has a brief summary listed here; click through to the linked course pages for more information.
Beowulf in Old English(Prerequisite: “Introduction to Anglo-Saxon.”) Beowulf has long been seen as the crown jewel of early English literature. We at Signum are therefore pleased to be able to offer what is becoming increasingly rare: an opportunity to translate and scrutinize this poem line by line. Through intensive, seminar-style classes, students will be given an opportunity to practice their skills in translating the Old English language, as well as to become intimately familiar with this text.
Chaucer I: Visions of LoveWhat besides The Canterbury Tales did Chaucer write? How did Chaucer engage with earlier medieval authors? This class is the first semester in a two-part survey of Chaucer’s major works. In this first semester, we will study the works with which Chaucer established his reputation in his time: his early dream vision poems and his greatest completed work: Troilus and Criseyde. We will be reading Chaucer exclusively in Middle English, but no previous experience with Middle English is required.

Elementary Latin IIThe second semester of “Elementary Latin” will complete your introduction to the basic elements of the Latin language. Last semester, we began reading connected passages and short selections of unaltered Latin; this semester, these readings will become more prominent as our knowledge of Latin advances. You will not be expected to speak Latin, but you should have at this point a good classical pronunciation and know where to place important accents.
Introduction to Germanic Philology I: This class offers a survey of the older Germanic languages (especially Gothic, Old Norse, and Old English), and the literatures written in those languages. We will take the textual records of these languages as our point of departure, examining their literary qualities and linguistic peculiarities, as well as their historical and cultural contexts.
Norse Myths & Sagas: This course provides an introduction to the myths and sagas of medieval Scandinavia. The course focuses on readings from authentic texts in translation (no knowledge of the original languages is required!) but also discusses the wider cultural and historical context, including consideration of echoes from the medieval Norse literary tradition in modern culture and fiction.
A note on both the Germanic Philology and Norse Sagas pages: these pages will be fairly bare for a while, with just instructor, course number, and course description. More details will be added there in the coming weeks. But for now, think of it as thematic. The sparseness and severity of northerly climates, and all that.
Research MethodsWhat is literature? Why do we read it? How do we interpret it? How do contingent matters such as gender, race, class, and historical context affect the ways we interpret literature? How do we maintain contact with the significant scholarly conversations relevant for reading particular kinds of literature? These questions and the various ways the discipline of English literature has responded to them are the subjects of Signum’s Research Methods course.
Tolkien’s Wars and Middle-earthWho were the T.C.B.S? How did they influence Tolkien? What did he do in the First World War, and how did it change him? What became of his first “fellowship” of friends? How does the trench experience infuse The Lord of the Rings and other works, and how does all this relate to his other passions-myth and fairy-tale, the medieval, and the invention of languages?
Thank you so much, each of you; your enthusiasm, participation, intelligence, and goodwill make Signum the vibrant and rewarding community that it is today.
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Wanted: Fantasy/Science Fiction/Pop Culture Preceptor

(reposted from

The Department of Language & Literature at Signum University is currently seeking preceptors to join the faculty team in our Imaginative Literature concentration.

What Does a Preceptor Do?

The purpose of the position of Preceptor is to support the instruction of language and literature classes by:

  • Leading live small-group online discussion sessions
  • Liaising with the course lecturer(s)
  • Assigning and evaluating writing, projects, and assessments
  • Providing feedback and clarification for students
  • Occasionally offering guest lectures and/or participating in roundtable discussions
  • Contributing to the life of the university through various opportunities for service

General Qualifications

The successful candidate will have:

  • An M.A. in English, Languages, or a related field (Ph.D. preferred)
  • Experience teaching a diverse population of students at the college level (graduate teaching preferred)
  • A high level of comfort and ability working with technology or a demonstrable willingness and aptitude to learn the technologies used for Signum’s digital campus (online teaching experience preferred).

Passionate, knowledgeable, compassionate, visionary scholars are the ideal candidates for precepting at Signum.

Specific Qualifications

In addition to the general precepting requirements, an F/SF/Pop Culture candidate should possess:

  • A sound knowledge of proto-science fiction and the origins of modern SF.
  • Familiarity with pulp fiction, early SF, golden age SF, 20th- and 21st-century fantasy lit, and modern/postmodern popular culture.
  • Additional interests in film, gaming, etc. also encouraged.
  • Experience working within critical approaches to popular culture; academic presentation or publication experience on F/SF/PC preferred.

How to Apply

Send your C.V. and a letter of interest to the Department Chair, Sørina Higgins, at In your letter, please address your expertise in F/SF/PC as applicable, and please describe your level of comfort and experience with online teaching. Links to video samples of your teaching style are optional but recommended.

Signum University hires precepting faculty members into a pool for rotating one-term assignments.

Signum University is an equal opportunity employer, and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability status, protected veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by law.

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Shadows of Shadows of Ecstasy: An Irresponsible Suggestion about Charles Williams’ First Novel

Here is a tantalizing post from Brenton Dickieson about “Shadows of Ecstasy.” Do have a read!

A Pilgrim in Narnia

With Relief…

I have rarely been as relieved to complete a novel as Shadows of Ecstasy by Charles Williams. I knew very little about it going in, but wanted to read through his seven “supernatural potboilers” over the next year or so. All Hallows Eve and The Place of the Lion were weird, but brilliant, and War in Heaven was a fun Arthurian romp. Williams’ poetry is difficult and often obscure, but it is always beautiful and evocative. Shadows of Ecstasy was painful to read, occasionally confusing, and obviously filled with a kind of meaning that I found far from obvious.

Despite that, I think it is one of Williams’ most important works.

I have not yet read most of Grevel Lindop’s definitive biography of Williams, or Sørina Higgins’ work on Shadows of Ecstasy at the Oddest Inkling. So it is absolutely irresponsible of me to give the conjecture…

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Charles Williams

Here’s an intelligent blog post about two of CW’s novels. Enjoy!

Meg Moseman

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, the former of whom is quite possibly my favorite author, were part of a Christian writing group at Oxford entitled the Inklings. I am not familiar with all of their work, but I first read Lord of the Rings and Narnia in elementary school, I fell in love with C.S. Lewis’s adult fiction and nonfiction in high school, and in college I discovered Charles Williams–the “oddest inkling,” as described in the title of this great blog about him that I found perhaps a week ago. Here, I’d like to make a few introductory observations about two of Williams’ novels.

First, though: Williams was remarkable, troubled, and troubling (in both the best and the worst ways). Not only do I admire and love his writing, but I believe his charisma has worked on me, across the decades and through the barrier of text, to the point…

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Real Modernisms: Revising (Meta)Fictional Modernist Narratives

As you know, I gave a keynote talk at Mythmoot IV last weekend. Here’s the abstract:

In 1997, Brian Richardson’s “Remapping the Present” questioned the standard metanarrative of twentieth-century fiction, which plots a move from realism through modernism to postmodernism. This is a poor model, created by selectivity, marginalizing important authors, works, forms, and developments, ignoring the “radical heterogeneity and ‘untimeliness’ of twentieth-century literary practice” (292). Richardson proposes an alternate narrative, but his is also artificially selective, ignoring actual writing and reading habits. In this talk, I will re-narrate the story of twentieth-century British fiction, examining publication histories, reading behaviors, and measures of novels’ popularity and perceived quality. This approach recontextualizes the “Inklings” as essential contributors to the modernist narrative and puts them in dialogue with their critically-acclaimed High Modernist contemporaries.

Of course, the talk evolved greatly in the writing of it! Here is the video:

And here (for those who were asking) is my Works Cited page:

Adiseshiah, Siân Helen, and Rupert Hildyard, editors. Twenty-First Century Fiction: What Happens Now. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Bluemel, Kristin, editor. Intermodernism: Literary Culture in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain. Edinburgh University Press, 2009. JSTOR,

Bratman, David. A Handlist of Books by the Inklings. Accessed 27 May 2017.

—. “David Bratman’s Home Page.” David Bratman, Accessed 27 May 2017.

Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends by Humphrey Carpenter. Ballantine Books, 1978.

Garth, John. Tolkien and the Great War: The Threshold of Middle-Earth. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003.

Glyer, Diana Pavlac. The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community. The Kent State University Press, 2008.

Hapgood, Lynne, and Nancy L. Paxton, editors. Outside Modernism: In Pursuit of the English Novel, 1900-30. 2000 edition, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Heller, Scott. “New Life for Modernism.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 1999. The Chronicle of Higher Education,

“Introduction to Lexomics.” Wheaton College Lexomics, 9 May 2017,

Lewis, C. S. Perelandra. Macmillan & Company, 1977.

Malcolm, Janet. “Someone Says Yes to It.” The New Yorker, 13 June 2005, p. 148.

Mao, Douglas, and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, editors. Bad Modernisms. Duke University Press, 2006.

Miller, Tyrus. Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts Between the World Wars. University of California Press, 1999. EBSCOhost,

Monte, Steven. “Late Modernism: Politics, Fiction, and the Arts between the World Wars . Tyrus Miller.” Modern Philology, vol. 98, no. 3, Feb. 2001, pp. 532–536.

O’Connor, Maureen. “Outside Modernism.” English Literature in Transition 1880-1920, vol. 45, no. 4, 2002, p. 443.

“Poets of the First World War.” Westminster Abbey, Accessed 27 May 2017.

Richardson, Brian. “Remapping the Present: The Master Narrative of Modern Literary History and the Lost Forms of Twentieth-Century Fiction.” Twentieth Century Literature, vol. 43, no. 3, 1997, pp. 291–309.

“Ruth Pitter.” Wikipedia, 30 May 2016. Wikipedia,

Schwartz, Sanford. C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy. 1 edition, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Shippey, Tom. J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century. 1st edition, Mariner Books, 2002.

So, Richard Jean, and Hoyt Long. “Network Analysis and the Sociology of Modernism.” Boundary 2, vol. 40, no. 2, June 2013, pp. 147–182.

Wood, Ralph C. Tolkien among the Moderns. University of Notre Dame Pess, 2015.


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Signum Symposium on Charles Williams

signumLogo_100This coming Thursday, June 15th, at 4:00 EST, I will be interviewed by Dr. Karl Persson for an episode of the Signum Symposia series. I’ll be talking about my work on Charles Williams — about Chapel of the Thorn, the intro to the new Apocryphile edition of Taliessin, and maybe even about The Inklings and King Arthur. You can get more info and then register here to attend. This event is fully online, so you can watch or listen from anywhere. You can even call in on your phone and just listen if you’re driving, walking, jogging, or whatever. And it’s free — although we would love it if you would consider making a donation to Signum University to help support these events.

Here is the official event description from the Signum website:

In the seventy-two years since the death of Charles Williams – poet, novelist, editor, member of the Inklings, Anglican Christian, and occult master magician – his fame has waxed and waned. His reputation, never huge except among a small but dedicated cult following for his seven “metaphysical thriller” novels, has been hindered by the layers of obscure references in his works, the uneasy cohabitation of occultism and mystical Christianity, and some restrictions placed on his literary estate. However, this second decade of the twentieth century has seen a resurgence of interest in and availability of works by and about “The Oddest Inkling.” His official biography, a brilliant, comprehensive, and lucid study by Grevel Lindop, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. His works have entered the public domain in the U.K. Beautiful new editions of his novels have been released.

Sørina Higgins has been involved in the publication of two of Williams’ works. The first is an edition of The Chapel of the Thorn (a play written by Williams in 1912 and published in 2012 with intro and notes by Higgins, a preface by Grevel Lindon, and an essay by David Llewellyn Dodds. The second is and a new edition of Taliessin Through Logres (Williams’s 1938 collection of Arthurian poems) with an intro by Higgins. A third important work is forthcoming: an essay collection edited by Sørina Higgins entitled The Inklings and King Arthur.

Sørina Higgins and guest host Karl Persson will talk about these three works and other topics of interest related to Charles Williams, and will be delighted to answer audience members’ questions about this odd, magical, mystical writer.

Hope you can be there!

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Mythopoeic Society Nomination!

I received a delightful email this week beginning “I am very pleased to inform you that your publication, The Chapel of the Thorn edition, has been selected as a finalist for the 2017 Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inklings Studies.” The Mythopoeic Awards are probably the most prestigious prizes in the fields of Inklings scholarship, and take a look at this amazing list!

2017 Mythopoeic Awards Finalists Announced

What an enormous honor, pleasure, and surprise it is for Chapel of the Thorn to be listed next to these heavy-hitters:

  • Christopher Tolkien, ed. Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary, together with Sellic Spell by J.R.R. Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, 2014)
  • Philip Zaleski and Carol Zaleski, The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015)

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Anyway, I won’t be able to go to Mythcon this year, but I hope you can, and may the best book win!

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Wonder Invoked (aka Mythmoot Grows Up)

Mythmoot-IV-banner-1024x358Wonder, awe, amazement, curiosity, yearning, longing, joy, sehnsucht — these permeate the literature that has shaped my mind and determined much of my life. I wrote my Master’s Thesis on “The Heraldry of Heaven,” as C. S. Lewis called one particular form of romantic, spiritual desire; you can see me talk about it here:

Wonder infuses ancient myths and modern fantasy novels, moments of magic in Shakespeare’s plays and modernist poetry, the most lofty epics and the cheapest science fiction. The characters in the books may be filled with wonder, or the reader may be uplifted onto heights of awe while reading.

“Invoking Wonder” was the theme of Signum University‘s conference, Mythmoot IV, last weekend in Virginia, and the conference certainly lived up to its theme. What’s more, I believe that Mythmoot has now taken its place among the best academic conferences on the Inklings, speculative fiction, fantasy literature, myth, and science fiction. Those of you who work in these areas should now add Mythmoot to your regular conference circuit along with the Frances White Ewbank Colloquium on C.S. Lewis & Friends at Taylor University in Indiana and, of course, Mythcon.

signumLogo_100Everything about Mythmoot was excellent, but here are the academic high points from my perspective. I’ll post links to YouTube videos later as they become available.

  • The “VIP Panel” on “Invoking Wonder” featuring John DiBartoloDr. Michael Drout, Dr. Verlyn Flieger, Ted Nasmith, and Dr. Corey Olsen, which I had the honor of moderating. Here’s the video: a dry, alienating discussion of imaginative techniques in literature and of the history of the word wundor and blah blah blah. Apparently I forgot who my panelists were! Before we got halfway down the line on the first question (“What is your earliest memory of being filled with wonder?”), at least one panelist and more than one audience member had tears in their eyes, moved by the powerful reality of awe. They talked about which books, music, conversations, or works of art affected them as children and since then. We discussed whether wonder can be taught, by teachers or parents. We talked about the mysteries of nature, whether reality or fantasy is more moving. We argued whether curiosity is the same as wonder, or leads to it, and whether wonder is a specifically spiritual, even mystical, experience. It was a great privilege to talk with these great scholars and artists, and even more special to share some of the deep feelings of their hearts.
  • Dr. Michael Drout’s

    photo by Laura Lee Smith

    keynote talk “‘A Lesser Son of Great Sires’: On being a Philologist in the Twenty-first Century.” Mike spoke with great aplomb and hilarity about the very serious subject of the decline of philology as an academic field of study over the past century. This decline is partly due to the unfortunate (perceived) entanglement of philology with Nazism, but also arguably due to the rigor of the subject. Mike led us on a romp through the history of the field as it was in Tolkien’s day through the middle and end of the twentieth century to where it is today: hardly a philologist is to be seen on the faculty of any English departments these days. (As a side note, Signum has several philologists on faculty and is adding more!) Then he applied his own considerable philological skills to a close reading of a textual crux in Beowulf, and all while keeping us roaring with laughter, and all before 10:00 in the morning. I also enjoyed several good conversations throughout the weekend; thanks, Mike! Here is the video of Mike’s awesome talk:

  • Dr. Verlyn Flieger’s

    photo by Laura Lee Smith

    keynote talk “The Eye of the Beholder.” This was a detailed, close-reading, inspiring examination of one technique Tolkien uses to invoke wonder in the reader. Verlyn called it “rebound,” after a pool technique wherein the player hits another ball such that it then hits the one s/he wants to move. In writing, the author doesn’t have the narrator describe an event directly. Instead, a character’s response to the event is described such that the reader can inhabit the character’s thoughts and feelings during the event — and then experience the event through the character rather than through narrative description. Dr. Flieger used several powerful examples of this technique in The Lord of the Rings, including when Sam views the dead Southron, and when Gimli describes the Glittering Caves of Aglarond to Legolas. If I were to sum up her talk, I’d say that these lines from Hopkins do it best:

    These things, these things were here and but the beholder
    Wanting; which two when they once meet,
    The heart rears wings bold and bolder
    And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

    Part of her argument was that wonder does not reside in the object or event itself, but in the response of the reader, viewer, listener, etc. There’s a strong Barfieldian influence present in this concept, as well as the idea from Hopkins. I found her talk so moving that it was operating as a double rebound on me! Watch Verlyn’s wonderful keynote here:

  • I also enjoyed giving a keynote talk myself, and was pleased by how well it fit the sequence of plenaries. I called it (most pretentiously) “Real Modernisms: Revising (Meta)Fictional Modernist Narratives,”
    18839497_10154677969737934_4965495317787276577_o (1)

    photo by James Madsen

    and what Mike Drout did for philology, I tried to do for modernism. I talked about the state-of-play in modernist studies, how it’s changing to include previously marginalized voices, including mass market genres that have previously been snubbed. This opens up opportunities for Inklings scholars to put their beloved authors into fruitful dialogue with “high modernist” writers–which I began to do. I also argued that “the Inklings” do not exist as a closed, fixed group, but that they were a fluid network of connections and associations.

  • Finally, I had the very great joy of chairing two Thesis Panels filled with members of Signum University’s first graduating class, and of helping to officiate at the first-ever Signum Graduation! I am so very proud of our first 11 graduates and their excellent research. We had two panels, and topics included Tolkien and women, Lewis and the Great Chain of Being, Gothic literature and modern fantasy, Doctor Who and fairy tale, Tolkien’s politics, and a praxeological approach to literature. The graduation was a perfect expression of those things that make Signum unique — or “weird on purpose” — such as a hand-forged spear called Aiglos, a chanting of a Mythgard-specific “Tra-la-la-lally,” home-brewed Northern Courage, live-streaming online with participants around the glove, diplomas available in Latin or Quenya upon request, a lovely “Quest” speech by Dr. Flieger, and a few tears on the part of Corey Olsen and some of the grads. Congrats to our first graduating class! grad.pngThose, then, were the academic highlights for me. I’m sure there were others, as I did not get to attend all the papers or presentations. But in addition to the important academic achievements of all present, there were the unforgettable conversations and social times — most notably, the Masquerade Ball and the dancing! Lots and lots of dancing. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I got to teach Marie’s Wedding, The Virginia Reel, and Foxtrot with the intrepid Corey Olsen for my dance partner. And then we danced a tango demo. Only don’t call it a tango. I’m of Swedish extraction; Corey is Norwegian.
  • Q: What do you call it when two Viking literary scholars dance? 
    A: A tanglo-saxon!

    (watch our fairly shabby but fun tango here)

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