Reblog: C. S. Lewis on Sehnsucht (Longing and Desire in The Weight of Glory)

For this week’s “Feature Friday” I wanted to focus on Jennifer Neyhart’s blog. This veteran C.S. Lewis writer and social media wizard is in the midst of a C.S. Lewis blogging challenge. She is writing a C.S. Lewis blog every single day in the month of October! There are a number of interesting blogs, including this one on Sehnsucht, which connects with another Feature Friday from this month.  

C. S. Lewis on Sehnsucht (Longing and Desire in The Weight of Glory)

Sehnsucht is a German word that embodies a huge theme in all of Lewis’s writings.

For Lewis, Sehnsucht was the sense of deep, inconsolable longing, yearning, the feeling of intensely missing something when we don’t even know what it is. It is also related to his experiences of joy:

“Joy is distinct not only from pleasure in general but even from aesthetic pleasure. It must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing.” – Surprised by Joy

The author of Hebrews writes about the heroes of the faith who “were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.

And in The Weight of Glory Lewis describes this longing further:

“In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”

Haven’t you experienced the moment he describes where we grow awkward with friends in the face of such vulnerability and we break the tension with laughter? We are uncomfortable with this feeling, with the awareness that we are lacking and that we are always longing for more

read the remainder here.
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Thoughts and Prayers: The Ottawa Terror Attacks

ottawa_shooterA delightful little post on marriage that comes out of my reading of John Crowley’s Little, Big was scheduled to post this afternoon. With the Ottawa terror attacks in play, I decided it was time for a more sober reflection, even if I don’t have all the answers. As I write this, people in Ottawa are staying away from windows. Children are hiding beneath their desks at school.

Terror attacks are nothing new. 9/11 has shaped our generation, and Lower Manhattan still seems a bit empty to me. There are other dates like this: 7/7 in London, 13/7 in Mumbai, and 22/7 in Norway, the July bombings. An earlier American generation was formed by 11/22/63. Perhaps today will become 22/10 or 10/22. I don’t know. The attack may not be over yet. Someone on the radio just called it “Canada’s 9/11.”

It’s too early to tell why multiple shooters attacked Parliament Hill. On Monday, a radicalized Muslim convert mowed down soldiers in Quebec with his car. Yesterday Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent died of his injuries. The suspect in this attack had his passport suspended because authorities were concerned he would join ISIS forces in the Middle East. Instead, he served his cause closer to home.

It could be that today’s acts of terrorism are from a similar base of politicized Islam. Bombings rocked Mumbai not just on 13/7, 2011, but also in 1993 and 2008. In 1993, the Blind Sheik attempted the first bombings of the World Trade Centre. While largely unsuccessful, terrorists did succeed in the 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 Americans, and the Aug 7, 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa. In those coordinated attacks of Kenya and Tanzania, at least 224 died and thousands were injured.

While media since the first Gulf War has most frequently drawn out elements of Islamic terrorism–and they are certainly there–this one stream of the world’s second largest religion does not have a monopoly on terror. My childhood memories are haunted by IRA bombings, laced in my imagination with a U2 soundtrack. It is hard to ignore the Oklahoma Bombing or the Tokyo Subway Sarin Gas Attack, both in 1995.

There is danger all around.

The soldier shot on Parliament Hill was just pronounced dead.

I have taught a number of classes on religious and anti-religious extremism. Without fail, students want to know why. Why do people radicalize? How does a human life of less value that a political or religious idea? How does a middle class kid from Denver, CO or Lockport, NY or St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC set down textbooks to take up arms?

I have never had an answer for my students.

There are many social reasons why people radicalize. The social conditions in the Palestinian Territories or among Iraqi minorities is ripe for extreme solutions to unsolvable problems. Revolutions begin this way, but it is also the way that terrorist organizations flourish.

There is also the question of mental illness. I brought up this question in my post, “What if He is Actually Evil?” Too often social conversations turn to language like “insane,” “mad man,” and “psychopath.” I think this leap does real damage to people with mental illness, and it leaves no public space for the question of good and evil. It also doesn’t help the radicalized individuals or their victims. On Monday I posted a pithy quote from a Terry Pratchett character who talks about evil, and how humans have no good except what evil they prevent. Perhaps he’s right, though I hope not.

So I have no answers.

All I can really do try to redeem that public cliche. “Thoughts and prayers,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper is offering to our country. “Thoughts and prayers,” President Barack Obama is offering to our Prime Minister and all of Canada. This phrase can slip out of our mouths without much thought or any intention to pray. It has perhaps come to mean nothing as we say it when we have nothing else to say.

But it is a good phrase, a sentiment that can rise above the cliche.

My thoughts and prayers, as meager as they may be, are with the victims of terrorism and the citizens of Ottawa.

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The Banality of Evil: A Thought by Terry Pratchett

“The Banality of Evil” is a phrase by Hannah Arendt in her book, Eichmann in Jerusalem. The idea emerged out of the aftermath of WWII, as the public slowly came to consciousness about the Holocaust. There were Nazi hunters in the news, and the Nuremberg trials were giving testimony to horrors that most in the world could scarcely find words for, even in the darkness of imagination. Still today, perpetrators of the holocaust are being pulled from senior citizen homes and being charged with the atrocities of their youth.

What is particularly striking about the holocaust, however, is not merely the evil that great evil men perpetrated. It is the base reality that much of the death and torture of millions of civilians came at the hands of relatively normal people. Why did millions of Jews, Poles, communists, homosexuals, disabled people, and political nonconfomists die in WWII concentration camps? Because everyday people showed up for work, punched their time card, and did their job.

While Hannah Arendt’s argument is a little more complex than that, this basic idea is the banality of evil.Captain Sam Vimes is one of my favourite Discworld characters. He is the most begrudgingly redeemed characters I know, slowly brought out of an alcoholic stupour and career aimlessness into a sense of personal worth and vocational renewal. Indeed, where we pick up the story, he has just become a hero, in that he defended the city of Ankh-Morpock against certain destruction and saved the Patrician, Lord Vertinari, from an assassin’s blade. The Patrician, a cruelly officious bureaucrat who seeks to mitigate evil rather than engender good, share’s his personal worldview with Captain Vimes in the denouement of Gaurds! Guards! (1989). Vimes was waiting for condemnation, but receives cautious praise instead. Lupine was both the attempted assassin/usurper and Vertinari’s right-hand man. The Librarian is an ape, an orangutan to be specific, who has been deputized by Captain Vimes’ Sergeant. You’ll need to know that to see the implicit question that Pratchett leaves open at the end: What does it mean to be human?


“You saved my life.” [the Patrician said].

“Sir?” [Captain Vimes responded].

“Come with me.”

He stalked away through the ruined palace, Vimes trailing behind, until he reached the Oblong Office. It was quite tidy. It had escaped most of the devastation with nothing more than a layer of dust. The Patrician sat down, and suddenly it was as if he’d never left. Vimes wondered if he ever had.

He picked up a sheaf of papers and brushed the plaster off them.

“Sad,” he said. “Lupine was such a tidy-minded man.”

“Yes, sir.”

The Patrician steepled his hands and looked at Vimes over the top of them.

“Let me give you some advice, Captain,” he said.

“Yes, sir?”

“It may help you make some sense of the world.”

“Sir.”

“I believe you find life such a problem because you think there are the good people and the bad people,” said the man. “You’re wrong, of course. There are, always and only, the bad people, but some of them are on opposite sides.”

He waved his thin hand toward the city and walked over to the window.

“A great rolling sea of evil,” he said, almost proprietorially. “Shallower in some places, of course, but deeper, oh, so much deeper in others. But people like you put together little rafts of rules and vaguely good intentions and say, this is the opposite, this will triumph in the end. Amazing!” He slapped Vimes good-naturedly on the back.

“Down there,” he said, “are people who will follow any dragon, worship any god, ignore any iniquity. All out of a kind of humdrum, everyday badness. Not the really high, creative loathesomeness of the great sinners, but a sort of mass-produced darkness of the soul. Sin, you might say, without a trace of originality. They accept evil not because they say yes, but because they don’t say no. I’m sorry if this offends you,” he added, patting the captain’s shoulder, “but you fellows really need us.”

“Yes, sir?” said Vimes quietly.

“Oh, yes. We’re the only ones who know how to make things work. You see, the only thing the good people are good at is overthrowing the bad people. And you’re good at that, I’ll grant you. But the trouble is that it’s the only thing you’re good at. One day it’s the ringing of the bells and the casting down of the evil tyrant, and the next it’s everyone sitting around complaining that ever since the tyrant was overthrown no one’s been taking out the trash. Because the bad people know how to plan. It’s part of the specification, you might say. Every evil tyrant has a plan to rule the world. The good people don’t seem to have the knack.”

“Maybe. But you’re wrong about the rest!” said Vimes. “It’s just because people are afraid, and alone—” He paused. It sounded pretty hollow, even to him.

He shrugged. “They’re just people,” he said. “They’re just doing what people do. Sir.”

Lord Vetinari gave him a friendly smile.

“Of course, of course,” he said. “You have to believe that, I appreciate. Otherwise you’d go quite mad. Otherwise you’d think you’re standing on a feather-thin bridge over the vaults of Hell. Otherwise existence would be a dark agony and the only hope would be that there is no life after death. I quite understand.” He looked at his desk, and sighed. “And now,” he said, “there is such a lot to do. I’m afraid poor [Lupine] was a good servant but an inefficient master. So you may go. Have a good night’s sleep. Oh, and do bring your men in tomorrow. The city must show its gratitude.”

“It must what?” said Vimes.

The Patrician looked at a scroll. Already his voice was back to the distant tones of one who organizes and plans and controls.

“It’s gratitude,” he said. “After every triumphant victory there must be heroes. It is essential. Then everyone will know that everything has been done properly.”

He glanced at Vimes over the top of the scroll.

“It’s all part of the natural order of things,” he said.

After a while he made a few pencil annotations to the paper in front of him and looked up.

“I said,” he said, “that you may go.”

Vimes paused at the door.

“Do you believe all that, sir?” he said. “About the endless evil and the sheer blackness?”

“Indeed, indeed,” said the Patrician, turning over the page. “It is the only logical conclusion.”

“But you get out of bed every morning, sir?”

“Hmm? Yes? What is your point?”

“I’d just like to know why, sir.”

“Oh, do go away, Vimes. There’s a good fellow.”

In the dark and drafty cave hacked from the heart of the palace the Librarian knuckled across the floor. He clambered over the remains of the sad hoard and looked down at the splayed body of [Lupine].

Then he reached down, very gently, and prised [the book] The Summoning of Dragons from the stiffening fingers. He blew the dust off it. He brushed it tenderly, as if it was a frightened child.

He turned to climb down the heap, and stopped. He bent down again, and carefully pulled another book from among the glittering rubble [a book of Law]. It wasn’t one of his, except in the wide sense that all books came under his domain. He turned a few pages carefully.

“Keep it,” said Vimes behind him. “Take it away. Put it somewhere.”

The orangutan nodded at the captain, and rattled down the heap. He tapped Vimes gently on the kneecap, opened The Summoning of Dragons, leafed through its ravaged pages until he found the one he’d been looking for, and silently passed the book up.

Vimes squinted at the crabbed writing.

Yet draggons are notte liken unicornes, I willen. They dwellyth in some Realm definèd bye thee Fancie of the Wille and, thus, it myte bee thate whomsoever calleth upon them, and giveth them theyre patheway unto thys worlde, calleth theyre Owne dragon of the Mind

Yette, I trow, the Pure in Harte maye stille call a Draggon of Power as a Forse for Goode in thee worlde, and this ane nighte the Grate Worke will commense. All bathe been prepared. I hath labored most mytily to be a Worthie Vessle…

A realm of fancy, Vimes thought. That’s where they went, then. Into our imaginations. And when we call them back we shape them, like squeezing dough into pastry shapes. Only you don’t get gingerbread men, you get what you are. Your own darkness, given shape…

Vimes read it through again, and then looked at the following pages.

There weren’t many. The rest of the book was a charred mass.

Vimes handed it back to the ape.

“What kind of a man was [the author]?” he said.

The Librarian gave this the consideration…. Then he shrugged.

“Particularly holy?” said Vimes.

The ape shook his head.

“Well, noticeably evil, then?”

The ape shrugged, and shook his head again.

“If I were you,” said Vimes, “I’d put that book somewhere very safe. And the book of the Law with it. They’re too bloody dangerous.”

“Oook.”

Vimes stretched. “And now,” he said, “let’s go and have a drink.”

“Oook.”

“But just a small one.”

“Oook.”

“And you’re paying.”

“Eeek.”

Vimes stopped and stared down at the big, mild face.

“Tell me,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to know…is it better, being an ape?”

The Librarian thought about it. “Oook,” he said.

“Oh. Really?” said Vimes.

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Why Poetry?

Brenton Dickieson:

I am a fan of John Benjamin’s “The Bully Pulpit” page. Every couple of days he captures an intelligent, compassionate, witty, or startling quote from a leading author or historical figure. This quick response by Peter Hitchens on poetry is worth the while.

Originally posted on The Bully Pulpit:

Peter Hitchens

Questioner: I teach five-year-olds and we’ve been doing poetry — they love writing it. But making them sit down and recite poems would just be a waste of their time and a waste of my time.

Peter Hitchens: Well, I’ll recite you one a teacher taught me some 40 years ago:

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

[Applause] And I’m very pleased that my head is full of things like that, and also lots of hymns, which I also remember — and I feel very sorry for anybody who hasn’t had the chance to learn them. And I think it is a great condemnation of our school system that so few…

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Chance, Providence, and a Third Option: A Walter Mitty Reflection

It was my son’s night to pick our family film, and of all the superhero, gang-busting, technicolour films he could have chosen, he picked The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Granted, Ben Stiller is on our nine-year-old’s radar as a family actor, particularly for his role in the Night at the Museum franchise. Walter Mitty, however, is not that. It is the indie-styled film of a boring middle manager who cultivates a life of imaginary adventures, but who never takes any risks. Ever.

In the great irony that draws from James Thurber’s original short story in 1939, Walter Mitty (played by Ben Stiller) works at Life magazine. Life’s motto is placed throughout the film, both on the lips of the actors, but also in props and visual dramatics:

To see the world, things dangerous to come to,
to see behind walls, draw closer,
to find each other, and to feel.
That is the purpose of Life.

This motto is everything that Walter Mitty is not. But it is everything he aspires to be.

When suddenly uprooted by the threat of corporate downsizing, the end of magazine culture, and a missing photo, Walter Mitty embarks on a global comedy of errors. From bar fights and shark wrestling to cliff jumping and a mountaintop soccer scrimmage, Walter is drawn out of himself into a life more troubling and problematic and rich than he could ever have wished for.

It is a brilliant film. The location shoots are gorgeous, the writing is superb, the scenes are laced with cultural echoes, and the imagination shots turn a mid-life crisis love film into a family classic.

There is a further layer of intrigue in the film: the question of Providence. One of the most difficult things about telling a story of happenstance is when the element of Chance is pushed too far and credibility is lost. While I enjoyed watching California slide into the ocean, the sheer number of one-last-chance do-or-die completely-lucky moments in 2012 explode the thin veneer of trust I was willing to place in this apoca-flop. Yet I never question a far greater series of coincidences in Forrest Gump or Big Fish. It is the difference between good storytelling and, well, the end of John Cusack’s career.

In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Lady Luck gambles with the gods. In the Old Testament, God is the unseen Mover behind the geopolitical miracle that is historic Israel. But in the films that do Chance well, the Lady or Lord of Coincidence is unnamed.

In The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, however, it asks the question of the Unseen Hand. Walter has to discern a number of clues that are left in his way. The first ones are so obscure and unlikely, that the trail they leave gives the audience a smile. When Walter discovers a thumb—that’s right, a person’s thumb—in Greenland, the storyteller is at the cliff’s edge of credibility (even though there’s only 8 people in Greenland).

What keeps us as an audience from falling over the edge is the question of who left the trail of clues, and how intentional they were in doing so. We wonder whether there is a grand master behind Walter Mitty’s great self-rediscovery–a mentor wise in what it means to seek the purpose of life. It is possible that Walter Mitty’s adventure is neither capital “P” Providence nor Chance, in the truest sense.

As I loved this great surprise of a film, I posted my thoughts on facebook. And I discovered that a number of my fairly limited number of facebook friends liked the film too. Quite a few were actually watching it that day. It caused me to wonder whether Nicolas’ choice was Providential, Coincidental, or if there is a Third Option.

The Third Option in Walter Mitty is the Sensei character, and I won’t reveal what happens with that storyline. But what would the Third Option be for the strange coincidence that a number of friends were watching the same film at various parts of the world at the same time? Is Mark Zuckerberg the grand master of my journey of self-discovery?

Close, but even creepier than that. Regardless of whether my life is really being shaped by Providence, and regardless of what your thoughts are on Chance, an absolute certainty is that my life is being shaped by the Algorithm. Day by day, strengthening with every blog, tweet, profile update, appointment request, and recipe search I perform, the Algorithm that I shape is shaping me. Who creates these happy moments I enjoy as a family, or the great synchronicities I share with friends? The Algorithm, that’s who.

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The Heraldry of Heaven

Brenton Dickieson:

If you aren’t familiar yet with the Mythgard Institute, a good place to begin is here, with Sørina Higgins’ lecture on C.S. Lewis’ provocative and intriguing idea of “joy.”

Originally posted on The Oddest Inkling:

MythgardBadge_90x90the-wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fogOn Tuesday, I gave a guest lecture at Signum University’s Mythgard Institute as a supplement to the course on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. The talk was entitled “The Heraldry of Heaven: The Development of Sehnsucht in the Writings of C.S. Lewis.” In it, I discuss the longing or yearning that drove Lewis to explore Romantic poetry and mystical encounters in his writings.

You can access the video here and the audio here.

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A Guide to Doing C.S. Lewis Research at the Bodleian: From One Who Started Badly

I wrote here of the hectic chaos of arriving at the Bodleian. It was a combination of my unforeseen lack of preparation, and the fact that the Bodleian is under renovation. My hope is to provide a little detail about how to arrange your visit to the special collections at the Bod so you can make the most of your time here.

Before You Come

You have to wait to get your Reader’s Card until you get here, but there are some things that you can do so it all goes smoothly.

  1. Make sure you have filled out Form A and Form B, available here. If you are a British student or an Oxford alum, you don’t have to pay. Otherwise, be prepared for a card fee.
  2. One of the forms requires a signature from someone who can vouch for your project. In my case, that is a PhD supervisor. I was able to do this in person, but you may need to make time for a supervisor, chair, dean, or colleague to sign it through PDF scan, Fax, or mail.
  3. As a student, I was required to show how long I would be a student. We don’t think of this in Canada, but in Britain, a date of expiry is usually on your letter of registration. If you don’t have that, you will need it, or a letter from the Registrar’s office saying you are a student until Apr 30, 2018 (for example).
  4. You must contact the Rare Books and Manuscript Reading Room staff to order your materials (see here, though the link may change). You must order materials 24 hours in advance.
  5. If you can come and visit the Bodleian and the Oxford City Centre before you have to show up for research, I would advise it. Knowing the streets and buildings—and even restaurants and cafes—makes your time a little more fruitful.

Broad street OxfordStaying in Oxford

You need to stay in Oxford for a few days to get the town. A super guide and two days may do it, but if you can take the extra time to do so, it is a good idea.

I stayed with a friend, making Oxford accessible in unpredictable ways. Not only was it inexpensive—hotels are quite costly, though there are hostels and some residence options out of term—but my friend, an Oxford DPhil student, was a superb hostess and guide to the intricate lanes and colleges of Oxford.

Getting Your Reader Card

During the day there are porters throughout the Bodleian helping tourists make the best of the experience. However, you can only get into the different parts of the library when you get a reader’s card, and you won’t get into any Reader’s Room without one. Moreover, you want to go get your card early enough in the day that there are still not porters around. In this season, the Bodleian is open 9-7, but it is 9-5 typically out of term.

The “Admissions” office is in the Clarendon building, but there is no sign. It is the building that is the archway onto Broad Street, so often the first building you may encounter. It is not wheelchair accessible, but you can make appointments ahead of time to meet a staff member.

Get there early. I was there in front of the door at 8:45, and by 9:00 there was a long queue. Some of them would have waiting an hour or so.

Here is what you need:

  • Form A & Form B completed properly.
  • If you are a student, your letter of registration.
  • Your student ID or university staff ID.
  • Supplementary ID (like a license).
  • Any correspondence you have made with the library previous to arriving.

You will have to swear an oath not to bring any tinder into the library. They would prefer you don’t burn it down.

The Rare Books and Manuscript Reading Room

This may change, but it looks like a permanent part of the Weston Library, what many are calling the New Bodleian library. It is across Broad Street (and across the King’s Arm pub). It is in construction, so access will change somewhat frequently.

A few things you need to know:

  • You can’t take backpacks, purses, or any bags into the library. You can rent lockers for £1 and put your laptop and books in a plastic Ziploc bag (you can get the money back at day’s end).
  • You cannot take in coffee, food, or bottled water. There is not yet a water fountain, so you may have to work out water when you get here.
  • You can take in your own books or notebooks, but no pens. You need a pencil, which you must provide (I got a free one!).
  • You can take in a laptop or tablet. There is a plug (you need a British converter) and you can get a guest Wifi code or use Eduroam.
  • You can take non-flash pictures of certain materials. Please enquire, but the rule is basically this: if it is deposited or photocopied, no pictures; if it is an original manuscript owned by the Bodleian, non-flash photos for personal use is allowed.
  • Turn off your cell phones and computer sounds or you will be shamed by serious researchers glancing over stacks of rare books.

The staff here are wonderful. Never be afraid to ask questions about accessibility or protocol. If you have broken a rule or cannot get some materials, they will apologize deeply, even if it is your fault. They also have layers of knowledge, and are eager to help younger scholars.

Accessing Materials

The Bodleian materials are on the move. Some of them have been stored in a Salt Mine in Cheshire; others have been scattered across Oxford. I cannot imagine how they have managed it.

But they have done well. Until renovations are complete in 2016, you should expect a delay in materials. Once it is all in house, you can still expect a one hour delivery.

They are currently doing two deliveries a day, so there is a chance of getting materials in the afternoon that you ordered in the morning. But it is not guaranteed. You really need 24 hours.

Here are some things that are helpful:

  • Have an idea of what you want to research before you get to the Bodleian. They have an online brief listing of C.S. Lewis materials available at the Bod. However, you will need to look up the details here in the library.
  • The Marion E. Wade Center manuscript listing (see here) is also a great resource. Many of the things the Wade owns is photocopied at the Bodleian, and vice versa. So a “B” in the catalogue listing of something at the Wade means it is a picture or photograph of something at the Bodleian. It can really be helpful in preparing to come.
  • When at the Reading Room, you will need help finding the book, C.S.. Lewis Papers: A Selective Catalogue. This is a brilliant resource by Judith Priestman that contains all of the Lewis listings, as well as a list of donors and depositors, and an index so you can find materials. It has been added to by pen and pencil over the years, as the original date is 1989. However, it captures the best of the Lewis papers.
    Note: I have poor quality photographs of the table of contents and some of the key manuscript pages. Feel free to contact me if you would like to see them for your own use.
  • When you find what you want, you will fill out a little green slip. Part of it goes into a ledger, where your request is hand transcribed in line behind some of the greatest minds in the worlds.
  • When your material is available, you can pick it up at the Reading Room desk. You will need to leave your card, and you can arrange to use materials the next day.
  • They have book weights, book cushions, magnifying glasses, etc. Ask if you need them.

Other Archive Tips

I’ve done work at a few archives, and have posted about my great experiences at the Wade. Here are a few things that help:

  • Many times you land at an archive during a great journey, or at the front or back end of a conference. Make sure you are well rested when you arrive for your work.
  • Make sure you’ve sketched out your entire time at the archive. Give yourself twice as much to do as you might expect, but expect that it will take you twice as long to do what you expect—how’s that for a Bagginsian proverb!
  • Try to have digital or hard copies of all that you need ready before you go. It adds extra cost, suitcase space, or time in other parts of the library, but comparing original manuscripts to the published work is essential.
  • You will need a pencil and a notebook. You won’t know why until you start writing.
  • Your feet will swell. Wear shoes you can slip off and on.
  • Take a lunch, and eat it in the sunshine (or rain). You will value every minute, but you will need a break.
  • Work as quickly as you can, going through your priorities. Don’t start transcribing something because it is cool.
  • For C.S. Lewis readers, you can do a little manuscript preparation first by reading Charlie Starr’s, Light.
  • Again, for C.S. Lewis readers, if you get stuck on a strange letter in a word, try making it a “p.” If it is a squat little loopy thing, try turning it into an “s.” You’d be amazed how often that helps.

What about you? Do you have archive tips, or details about the Bodleian that could be helpful? Let me know in the comments.

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