Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women: A 10 Minute Book Talk with Brenton Dickieson

Some thoughts on my very first read of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I’m an absolute amateur in reading this kind of book, but I was really intrigued by the new film. Reading this book, I realized how influenced I was by the 1994 film, starring Winona Rider, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, and Christian Bale. I was also curious about the links between L.M. Montgomery’s work and Alcott’s, and I may say something about the links between Rilla of Ingleside and Little Women in the future. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy!

Posted in 10 Minute Book Talk, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Screwtape Haunts in Eden: A Lecture on C.S. Lewis’ Fantasy Writings by Dr. Brenton Dickieson

In this lecture that I prepared for The King’s College in New York City, I talk about my research into C.S. Lewis’ world-building project. In particular, given manuscript evidence that links The Screwtape Letters with the Space Trilogy, I spend time looking at the first chapter of Perelandra, reading it as if it was the next part of the “Ransom Cycle” after The Screwtape Letters and Out of the Silent Planet. You can hear me give a similar paper here. It is based on papers I wrote, summarized here. As always, I’d love to hear your comments. Please subscribe and follow me on Twitter, @BrentonDana.

Posted in Fictional Worlds, Original Research | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christopher Tolkien, Curator of Middle-earth, Has Died, and a Letter from His Father

Tolkien Society Photo of Christopher TolkienAs last evening tilted towards nighttime in my part of the world, my social media feeds began filling with the news that Christopher Tolkien had died. The last living Inkling, Christopher John Reuel Tolkien (21 Nov 1924 to 15 Jan 2020), may well have been merely an interesting historical note, a minor scholar or writer always overshadowed by his father, J.R.R. Tolkien. And while it is true that his father was the subcreative genius of a vast, sweeping legendarium associated with the bestselling Lord of the Rings, Christopher Tolkien grew to become the literary curator of that world.

For this gift to us, the lovers of Middle-earth and fans of Tolkien’s linguistically rooted mythic worlds, we are ever grateful. Whereas many estates would have been content to leave the bulk of the author’s “unfinished tales” incomplete, Christopher Tolkien left behind a world of medieval scholarship to prepare his father’s papers for the world. This began with some translation work and The Silmarillion in the mid-1970s–with some help from Canadian author Guy Gavriel Kay–and continued at the pace of about a book every year or two (though a pace that slackened in the last half of this period. This list is not complete, leaving out indices, alternate editions, and the like. But it gives a sense of Christopher Tolkien’s work:

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo (J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation, with E.V. Gordon, 1975)
  • The Silmarillion (1977)
  • Unfinished Tales (1980)
  • The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, assisting Humphrey Carpenter (1981)
  • The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays (1983)
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 1, part 1 (1983)
  • The Book of Lost Tales, Vol. 2, part 2 (1984)
  • The Lays of Beleriand, Vol. 3 (1985)
  • The Shaping of Middle-earth, Vol. 4 (1986)
  • The Lost Road and Other Writings, Vol. 5 (1987)
  • The Return of the Shadow, Vol. 6 (1988)
  • The Treason of Isengard, Vol. 7 (1989)
  • The War of the Ring, Vol. 8 (1990)
  • Sauron Defeated, Vol. 9 (1992)
  • Morgoth’s Ring, Vol. 10 (1993)
  • The War of the Jewels, Vol. 11 (1994)
  • The Peoples of Middle-earth, Vol. 12 (1996)
  • The Children of Húrin (2007)
  • The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún (2009)
  • The Fall of Arthur (2013)
  • Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary (2014)
  • Beren and Lúthien (2017)
  • The Fall of Gondolin (2018)

There is more archival work tucked away in theses and other published papers, as well as major works by folks like Verlyn Flieger, Dimitra Vice and Andrew Higgins, and Michael Drout. But our debt is greatest to Christopher, who worked tirelessly from his father’s death until his mid-90s to bring this material to the world. I suppose Christopher Tolkien’s work began long before the 1970s, starting with his first job as an editor–a young man looking for errors in The Hobbit for a bit of pocket money! After that, there were maps to draw (see below) and discussions with the Inklings (see below) or at home or through letters. It is not often that we can speak of a lifetime of work with such fine results.

I have not read all of this material yet, but I will do so if the Lord tarries. And at 95 years old, lovers of Tolkien’s worlds have benefited from the long life, sharp eye, and steady hand of Christopher Tolkien–the custodian, guardian, conservator, gift-giver, and curator of Middle-earth. I don’t know who will follow, if anyone can, or what there is to come. But my life is richer for Christopher Tolkien’s work.

Given that one of the last edited volumes was the much anticipated Beren and Lúthien, I thought it would be nice to include the “Lúthien letter”–a note that J.R.R. Tolkien sent to his son, Christopher, about a year before he died. It is a mix of melancholic nostalgia and fond memories with some hint of boyish glee that The Lord of the Rings continues to delight readers, and a little bit of regret.


I have at last got busy about Mummy’s grave. …. The inscription I should like is:

EDITH MARY TOLKIEN
1889-1971
Lúthien

: brief and jejune, except for Lúthien, which says for me more than a multitude of words: for she was (and knew she was) my Lúthien.*

July 13. Say what you feel, without reservation, about this addition. I began this under the stress of great emotion & regret – and in any case I am afflicted from time to time (increasingly) with an overwhelming sense of bereavement. I need advice. Yet I hope none of my children will feel that the use of this name is a sentimental fancy. It is at any rate not comparable to the quoting of pet names in obituaries. I never called Edith Lúthien – but she was the source of the story that in time became the chief pan of the Silmarillion. It was first conceived in a small woodland glade filled with hemlocks at Roos in Yorkshire (where I was for a brief time in command of an outpost of the Humber Garrison in 1917, and she was able to live with me for a while). In those days her hair was raven, her skin clear, her eyes brighter than you have seen them, and she could sing – and dance. But the story has gone crooked, & I am left, and I cannot plead before the inexorable Mandos.

I will say no more now. But I should like ere long to have a long talk with you. For if as seems probable I shall never write any ordered biography – it is against my nature, which expresses itself about things deepest felt in tales and myths — someone close in heart to me should know something about things that records do not record: the dreadful sufferings of our childhoods, from which we rescued one another, but could not wholly heal the wounds that later often proved disabling; the sufferings that we endured after our love began – all of which (over and above our personal weaknesses) might help to make pardonable, or understandable, the lapses and darknesses which at times marred our lives — and to explain how these never touched our depths nor dimmed our memories of our youthful love. For ever (especially when alone) we still met in the woodland glade, and went hand in hand many times to escape the shadow of imminent death before our last parting.

15 July. I spent yesterday at Hemel Hempstead. A car was sent for me & I went to the great new (grey and white) offices and book-stores of Allen & Unwin. To this I paid a kind of official visitation, like a minor royalty, and was somewhat startled to discover the main business of all this organization of many departments (from Accountancy to Despatch) was dealing with my works. I was given a great welcome (& v.g. lunch) and interviewed them all from board-room downwards. ‘Accountancy’ told me that the sales of The Hobbit were now rocketing up to hitherto unreached heights. Also a large single order for copies of The L.R. had just come in. When I did not show quite the gratified surprise expected I was gently told that a single order of 100 copies used to be pleasing (and still is for other books), but this one for The L.R. was for 6,000.

*She knew the earliest form of the legend (written in hospital), and also the poem eventually printed as Aragorn’s song in LR.

Posted in Letters, News & Links | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

A Peculiar Dedication: C.S. Lewis’ Dedication of A Preface to Paradise Lost to Charles Williams (with a Note on Lewis Prefaces)

At A Pilgrim in Narnia we have an occasional feature called “Throwback Thursday.” This is where I find a blog post from the past–raiding either my own blog-hoard or someone else’s–and throw it back out into the digital world. This might be an idea or book that is now relevant again, or a concept I’d like to think about more, or even “an oldie but a goodie” that I think needs a bit of spin time.

As regular readers will have divined, I have been spending some time in Milton’s Paradise Lost. I suppose you can say this is because of the class I am teaching on Christian Literature, though it is really the other way around: I assigned Milton because he continues to grow in my imagination. In teaching this term, I decided to reread C.S. Lewis’ famous (and infamous) book, A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942). This book continues to be read by critics and scholars–not just because Lewis makes an audacious case for how to read Paradise Lost, but also because it is an eminently readable and often sensible and funny book. Whether we agree with any particular argument or not, Lewis invites us deeper into the text rather than chasing us away from it.

Rereading A Preface to Paradise Lost caused me to remember this post from 2013. C.S. Lewis’ prefaces teach us a lot about who he is and what he valued. Hopefully, this post will also invite you further into Lewis’ life and works. 


cs lewis preface to paradise lost 2000s

In his academic world of literary criticism, C.S. Lewis might be most influential for his A Preface to Paradise Lost. As I read it now, it does not seem an astounding book, though it is surprisingly accessible (except that the Latin and German isn’t translated for us). Published sometime in 1942, it was most controversial, perhaps, in that it thoroughly defended epic poetry, it put John Milton in his personal and historical religious context, and it resisted the thesis that Satan is the admirable or sympathetic hero of Paradise Lost. I have heard scholars of Milton speak of Lewis’ study in passionate terms even still–appreciative and critical of A Preface to Paradise Lost in equal measure. I am merely a student, so my passions are not yet aroused on the subject. I have come, though, to see how the character of Satan grows in one’s mind, so that his personality

to equal which the tallest pine
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great admiral, were but a wand,

… so to speak.

Lewis gave a series of 11 lectures on Paradise Lost in the Michaelmas term of 1939, at the outbreak of WWII. In December 1941, he delivered 3 talks from this series for the Matthew Ballard Lectures at the University College of North Wales, now Bangor University. In these talks, he covered the “highlights” of his lecture series, which he was then working into a book, published in 1942 by Oxford University Press.

The Place of the Lion by Charles WilliamsI have written before about the influence of Charles Williams in Lewis’ career. They met by exchanging mutual fan letters, and I think that Lewis saw the possibility for thoughtful fiction after reading Williams’ The Place of the Lion. They became great friends, though Williams was far more influential to Lewis than he was to Williams. It seems that Williams also opened up imaginative possibilities for Lewis in the critical studies of Paradise Lost–or at least gave Lewis permission to share his own views on the poem. Lewis, then, chooses to dedicate A Preface to Paradise Lost to Williams.

Usually, a dedication is simple. Lewis’ dedication to The Allegory of Love, for example, is just a short epigraph:

To Owen Barfield
wisest and best
of my
unofficial teachers

Screwtape-Letters18062lgThe dedication to The Screwtape Letters is simply, “To J.R.R. Tolkien”–and even then Tolkien felt that was too much. The Discarded Image is dedicated “To Roger Lancelyn Green,” and Surprised by Joy, “To Dom Bede Griffiths, O.S.B.” We might expect a more significant dedication in Till We Have Faces to his wife-to-be, Joy Davidman, who was instrumental in both inspiration and criticism of this great work. But it simply bears her name.

C.S. Lewis most famously diverges from this practice in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which I talk about in this post). He writes:

My dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realised that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand, a word you say, but I shall still be
your affectionate Godfather,
C.S. Lewis

Nicely done.

cs lewis preface to paradise lost 1970So, while it is unusual that Lewis writes a much more significant and personal dedication to Charles Williams in A Preface to Paradise Lost, it is not contrary to Lewis’ habit of connecting books with people. This dedication to Williams, though, is surprisingly long–a page and a quarter in a short book of fewer than 140 pages. And it has very personal moments that wouldn’t make sense to outside readers. Here is that dedication:

To CHARLES WILLIAMs

DEAR WILLIAMS,

When I remember what kindness I received and what pleasure I had in delivering these lectures in the strange and beautiful hillside College at Bangor, I feel almost ungrateful to my Welsh hosts in offering this book not to them, but to you. Yet I cannot do otherwise. To think of my own lecture is to think of those other lectures at Oxford in which you partly anticipated, partly confirmed, and most of all clarified and matured, what I had long been thinking about Milton.

The scene was, in a way, medieval, and may prove to have been historic. You were a vagus thrown among us by the chance of  ar. The appropriate beauties of the Divinity School pro­vided your background. There we elders heard (among other things) what he had long despaired of hearing–a lecture on Comus which placed its importance where the poet placed it­ and watched ‘the yonge fresshe folkes, he or she’, who filled the benches listening first with incredulity, then with toleration, and finally with delight, to something so strange and new in their experience as the praise of chastity. Reviewers, who have not had time to re-read Milton, have failed for the most part to digest your criticism of him; but it is a reasonable hope that of those who heard you in Oxford many will understand henceforward that when the old poets made some virtue their theme they were not teaching but adoring, and that what we take for the didactic is often the enchanted.

It gives me a sense of security to remember that, far from loving your work because you are my friend, I first sought your friendship because I loved your books. But for that, I should find it difficult to believe that your short Preface to Milton is what it seems to me to be-the recovery of a true critical tradition after more than a hundred years of laborious misunderstand­ing. The ease with which the thing was done would have seemed inconsistent with the weight that had to be lifted. As things are, I feel entitled to trust my own eyes. Apparently, the door of the prison was really unlocked all the time; but it was only you who thought of trying the handle. Now we can all come out.

Yours,
C.S. LEWIS

cs lewis preface to paradise lost 1942It is a strange and warm letter. Charles Williams was forced by WWII to move from London to Oxford, where he was able to connect more deeply with the Inklings. According to Lewis, he became the vagus of the Inklings–the nerve centre, I presume–and he quickened Lewis`work in Milton when he lectured at Oxford, filling in for scholars gone to war. Something about Williams’ work opened up new possibilities for Lewis as a scholar, as I argue that The Place of the Lion opened up new possibilities for Lewis as a fiction writer. I love the image here: it isn’t that Williams unlocked the prison doors. They were unlocked–we were free to read Milton properly all along–it is just that no one before Williams thought to check the doorknob to see if it would turn.

What is most striking about this peculiar dedication is the fond tone, the sensitivity of the dedication in a scholarly work. Lewis is trying to keep in memory what is surely not a significant historical moment in English studies: Charles Williams’ thoughts on Milton. He tries to keep these fading-though-brilliant ideas alive not because Williams is his friend. He is Williams’ friend because he has brilliant ideas worth keeping alive. I like that.

Posted in Lewis Biography, Memorable Quotes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet: A 10 Minute Book Talk with Brenton Dickieson

Before I ever returned to Narnia as an adult, I read C.S. LewisOut of the Silent Planet. I have always loved Science Fiction, and I enjoy stumbling upon a classic SF piece that is worth my time. As part of my 10 Minute Book Talk series, I wanted to invite readers to pick up a 1930s SciFi for the first time, or to re-discover this old C.S. Lewis classic in the 21st century. There are a good many flaws in the book, but Lewis seems to be striking at something that’s worth considering even today. Plus, it comes from a cool bet that Lewis and Tolkien made, and a letter Tolkien wrote to help Lewis out–a pretty bit of history that leads to a better bedside table reading experience for us all. And to make it all sweeter, Out of the Silent Planet has landed on a number of top 100 SF lists. It’s a book worth reading.

Please subscribe on Youtube if you enjoyed this video. As always, find me on Twitter @BrentonDana, or leave a comment below.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out these blog posts:

Posted in 10 Minute Book Talk, Reflections, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Top 5 New Posts of 2019

2019 was the busiest year ever on A Pilgrim in Narnia! Though I reduced the number of posts a little (to just over 2/week), there were more than 180,000 hits!  This year’s top posts have some intriguing connections. I have two guest posters on the list–the first time a guest post has cracked my top 5. Besides thoughts about the Tolkien biopic, Philip Pullman and Susan Pevensie link most of the top posts, and three of the top four posts have to do with questions of gender (and so does the 7th most popular post, on C.S. Lewis in Time magazine in 1947). If there is a theme that haunts behind the top posts as a group, it may be the tensions between what it means to be a good reader (and fan) and the challenges of our cultural moment. I hope you enjoy these great 2019 posts and follow along as we continue to discuss great books, imaginative authors, and critical ideas in 2020.

#5. What does Philip Pullman’s Daemon Voices have to say about the Inklings? Guest Post by Wesley Schantz click here

With the release of more books from the His Dark Materials (Golden Compass) universe, and with some unusual statements he has made about Lewis and Tolkien, there has been an increased interest in Philip Pullman. In this review, Wesley Schantz gives us a strong conversation about Pullman’s collection of essays, Daemon Voices. Wes provides smart analysis, lengthy quotations, and some beautiful images to set the tone of the conversation. I don’t know if Daemon Voices will having the staying power of other great writers who write about writing, like Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water, Stephen King in On Writing, Annie Dillard in The Writing Life, Margaret Atwood in Negotiating with the Dead and In Other Worlds, Ursula K. Le Guin in The Language of the Night and Steering the Craft, and in shorter pieces like these by Robert Heinlein and Octavia Butler. It is certainly, though, a book worth reading for people who love Pullman’s fiction and who want to develop their own storytelling and literary-critical skills.

#4. Girls, Boys, and the Maps in Their Heads: A Reflection on Narnia click here

In early 2019 I was writing a chapter in my PhD thesis about C.S. Lewis and gender. The chapter ended up being two chapters, a call and response on questions that were really intimate to Lewis and his writing. Writing these ideas, I was bringing together years of writing and research on ideas and texts that are really intimate to me. At the same time, I was teaching Narnia to smart undergraduate students who drew rich things from the Chronicles but also brought their own stories to the texts. Needing to write out my ideas in a more personal way, I began 2019 with this critical essay about gender roles in Narnia. “Girls, Boys, and the Maps in Their Heads: A Reflection on Narnia” was read well, with 170 comments (some of which included some heat). Quite frankly, I struggled with the response to his post on the blog and in social media, but it remains important to me as I try to shape good readership of texts among in the classroom and in public conversation.

#3. My Defiant Appreciation of the Biopic Tolkien click here

2019 saw the release of the Tolkien biopic, to mixed reviews. I was writing a guest post for Forefront on the film, and joined Diana Glyer and William O’Flaherty for a podcast, so I was doing a lot of thinking and reading about the film. I am a deeply invested Tolkien fan, a reader of as much of his writing as I can get, a secret lover of his languages, and fascinated with his life. I loved Peter Jackson’s LOTR films, but I also recognize the weaknesses in the Hobbit adaptations (see here, here, and here). As a fan, I love great adaptation and cringe at bad interpretation.

And yet, I want to live in the middle space between hating everything that isn’t perfect and loving everything with Tolkien’s name attached to it. At one point, I was called immoral because I gave Peter Jackson some credit! So I found myself choosing to be open to the Tolkien biopic, knowing it would have weaknesses, but also recognizing that it was not a critical biography or documentary, but a cinematic interpretation of his young adulthood. The result was “My Defiant Appreciation of the Biopic Tolkien,” an article that captured what I loved about the film. Readers were gracious to my approach, and director Dome Karukowski called it “my favourite to rule them all”–a neat high point in 2019.

#2. 8 Questions about the Problem of Susan Narnia Debate, or How to Read Well click here

I have been fascinated about Susan Pevensie for some time. I have never felt reconciled to her fate in The Last Battle, but I have never felt that the hyperbolic response was warranted. Though the idea is foolish, I consistently hear otherwise good readers say, “Did Lewis send Susan to hell for wearing lipstick?” Part of this is the peculiarly American nature of Narnian readership, and some of it is bound up in the unusual ways that Lewis plays with gender and social roles–some of which is strangely innovative, while other bits are uncomfortable and antiquated. Since our #1 post of 2019 was about Susan, and the post was quite widely received, I decided to lay out questions I think we have to ask to read Susan (and other ideas about gender in literature) well. These questions are about definitions, an author’s biography, our space as readers, and some theoretical suggestions about how good reading can work.

Because I’m really challenging a trend in scholarship in gender while in the same way supporting that way of reading, I was surprised that “8 Questions about the Problem of Susan Narnia Debate, or How to Read Well” was read more than a thousand times. In the end, I want to argue that any approach to analyzing a text has to be deeply invested in a close reading of the text and clarity about the questions we bring to the stories we love–and even the ones we love to hate.

#1. How do you Solve a Problem like Susan Pevensie? Narnia Guest Post by Kat Coffin click here

This is the only time that a guest post has topped a yearly list, and Kat Coffin’s strong post has actually cracked the Top 10 of all time on A Pilgrim in Narnia! After some conversation on Twitter, and based on an older social media post, I asked Kat to put together this challenge to how we think about Susan Pevensie. Early last year, I wrote a couple of posts about Lewis and gender, including “Girls, Boys, and the Maps in Their Heads: A Reflection on Narnia“–our #4 2019 post. As I was writing a chapter about Lewis and gender at the time, I followed up with “8 Questions about the Problem of Susan Narnia Debate, or How to Read Well“–the #2 post of 2019–and a later “Bibliography on C.S. Lewis and Gender,” a resource for my “C.S. Lewis, Gender, and The Four Loves: An Open Class.”

Many of us have feelings about the way that Lewis treated Susan in The Last Battle. I find Lewis’ treatment of Susan inelegant, and inconsistent with the feeling of Narnia. But those who reduce her treatment to “being sent to hell for being a young woman” are misreading the text, I think–making Susan what Kat calls the “most maligned and misinterpreted of Pevensies.” In this article, Kat carefully and briefly challenges many misreadings of the text by looking closely at how Susan’s character is developed. Kat doesn’t blindly defend Lewis, but challenges hasty readings that cause readers to miss some depth about gender in Lewis’ writings.

You can continue to follow Kat’s work on Twitter, @KatinOxford.

Finally, a funny note. The 6th most popular post of 2019 was actually my April Fools Day prank post, which you can see here (with apologies to Taylor Swift, who is indeed very cinematic and is friendly to me whenever we bump into each other at galas). That post was way more work than I intended it to be, but a good nonsense deal of fun in a difficult period for me. Thanks everyone for joining me in the joke!

Posted in News & Links, Reviews, Throwback Thursdays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did I Assign the Right Lines from Paradise Lost? A Rebuke from C.S. Lewis and a Christian Literature Reading List

For the first time, I am teaching Paradise Lost–beyond the normal references that come up in English literature, C.S. Lewis courses, and talks about religious history. I am using it to begin an undergraduate course on Christian Literature (after reading Donne‘s “Little World Made Cunningly” poem and Tolkien’s “Mythopoeia.” Since I can’t spend the whole semester on this greatest of modern English epic poems, I aimed to choose about 3,000 lines of the 10,000 lines in the poem, or about 2-3 hours of reading.

I made this choice when designing the syllabus–all the bright ideas that come a month before the course begins–but I have found abridging the text to be difficult. Really, there is no way to do this well and capture the breadth of the poem. In his lectures that became the famous book, A Preface to Paradise Lost, C.S. Lewis critiques this very thing. “The unfortunate reader has set out expecting ‘good lines’–little ebullient patches of delight such as he is accustomed to find in lyrics,” but are flummoxed when they come to an epic like Paradise Lost (1). While it is true that I am looking for large sections for students to read for the sake of art and theology (rather than nice quotes), what I am doing is similar to the Paradise Lost cherrypickers that Lewis calls out. I can see Lewis responding to my reduction of the poem to 30% with this kind of censure:

You cannot ponder over single lines and let them dissolve on the mind like lozenges. That is the wrong way of using this sort of poetry. It is not built up of isolated effects ; the poetry is in the paragraph, or the whole episode. To look for single, ‘good’ lines is like looking for single ‘good’ stones in a cathedral (A Preface to Paradise Lost, 21).

Yet, I must give these new students–who are not lit majors–something that they can achieve in the limited time we have. So I present to you, dear readers, my selections, focussed on Books I, IV, and IX with some other selections:

Students should read “the argument” of each of the 12 books.

  • Book 1, lines 1-334, 522-800 (622 lines)*
  • Book 2, lines 226-465 (240 lines)
  • Book 3, lines 56-134, 198-237 (117 lines)
  • Book 4, lines 1-538, 610-640, 796-829 (601 lines)
  • Book 5, lines 1-135 (135 lines)
  • Book 6, lines 892-912 (30 lines)
  • Book 7, lines 216-260, 519-547 (272 lines)**
  • Book 8, lines 530-566 (36 lines)
  • Book 9, lines 1-47, 99-225, 322-384, 420-493, 527-1189 (870 lines)*

Total: 2,923 lines

*I have made selections from Book I, 4, and 9; if you have time, I recommend reading those entire books, which will add about 10-20 minutes reading for each book.

**I would recommend reading all of Book 7, if you have time, as it is quite a beautiful translation of Gen 1 (would take about a ½ hour extra to read).

What is it I have missed in the poem? Is there any of what I have given that can be reduced even further? I love to know the thoughts of great readers and teachers of the poem.

I thought I would also share my reading list for the course, in pictorial and chart form. I love the books were are reading, though I wish I could add 3 or 4 more. I regret dropping The Screwtape Letters and Shūsaku Endō’s Silence–two books I’m teaching in other courses this semester. Endō would really jolt me out of my cultural tendency. It’s not a monocultural list: there are 4 UK writers, 1 Canadian writer, 5 US writers, 1 Italian writer, and 2 Russian writers. Given the historical nature of the course, a ration of 9:4 men to women writers is good. But I’d love more diversity.

On top of the novels and short stories, I’m also doing a short poem each week, but haven’t chosen them all yet. I’d love ideas that match the theme, if you have them.

G23 Christian Literature reading outline

Posted in Reflections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments