Teaching Screwtape for a New Generation: My Conference Talk

screwatape sigAnyone who follows A Pilgrim in Narnia knows of my interest in The Screwtape Letters. I have written reviews, asked questions about influences, looked at Screwtape copycats–including the first by mystery writer, Dorothy Sayers–thought about Screwtape`s anti-spirituality in popular culture, and invited guest bloggers to share their thoughts. I have used Screwtape in my university curriculum, and am in the midst of three academic papers on The Screwtape Letters. 2012 on A Pilgrim in Narnia was quite the year for Screwtape and his hapless nephew, Wormwood.

In 2012 I also gave a talk at the C.S. Lewis and the Inklings Colloquium at Taylor University in Indiana. Now my paper is available, published in Inklings Forever VIII, and priggishly titled,”The Pedagogical Value of The Screwtape Letters for a New Generation (available free online). Don’t get caught on the title. The paper is really a look at my experience teaching a Christian book, The Screwtape Letters, within a secular undergraduate school. It’s quite a lot of fun.

Not only is the paper now published, but the audio of the lecture is available at the All About Jack podcast. During the talk, I used Prezi and you can find the presentation available here if you want to follow along. It may help to read some notes I made about the Screwtape Letters genre, called “Screwtape Writes Again: A Note on Contemporary Screwtape Letters.” Here’s to 2013, a year where this Screwtape project takes a few leaps forward.



About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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19 Responses to Teaching Screwtape for a New Generation: My Conference Talk

  1. Jessica says:

    Brenton, I enjoyed your “Pedagogical Value of TSLfaNG”–the unique assignment itself, your evaluation of the students’ responses, and the responses themselves. Sorry we missed the Colloquium this year. I’ll see if my husband and I can carve out time to listen to you giving the paper.

    Richard Platt’s book As One Devil to Another must have come out AFTER the Colloquium. Platt’s version, pre-publication, was given an enthusiastic A+ by Walter Hooper in a one-hour trans-Atlantic phone call to the author (Hooper’s preface to the book came out of that conversation). I notice that Slashreap used much of the same 21st century technology and other devices your students did to tempt his nephew/victim.

    I wrote about the Platt sequel to Screwtape in my recent post http://hiddeninjesus.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/c-s-lewis-has-a-brand-new-book-out/.

    Knowing (at least by blog) an actual resident of PEI makes me even more interested in making the L.M. Montgomery pilgrimage, following her precocious redhead. (Sorry, Anne, to call it red.)


    • We are the red island! Contact when the pilgrimmage comes up in real life.
      Platt is on my list of “to read”–on my shelf, actually. Of course, I have a lot on that shelf!
      I follow your blog, but want to get emails sent to me, so I may unfollow and refollow so I’m updated in a better way.


      • Jessica says:

        Didn’t know about it being the red island. I was referring to Anne’s hair.

        Forgot to mention that I must have read some of Lewis in my B.C. days. I remember trying to write a version of Screwtape when I was 13 or so, with my father as His Infernal Majesty. The format didn’t work as well as I’d hoped and the project petered out. I wrote him up as a novel instead.


  2. Jessica says:

    We did it! I found the way to your podcast and Jerry figured out the accompanying Prezi quotes and graphics. Very creative! We enjoyed it all and I think I detected just the faint, far-off cry of Canadian geese in the background–you must have brought them to Indiana with you in your suitcase.


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  4. mrwootton says:

    I’m sure you’ve guessed who Wormsworth from “Her Unwelcome Inheritance” really is? =)


  5. Heather Kem says:

    I am a high school English teacher in private Christian school. I am planning to teach The Screwtape Letters to my senior British Literature course. However, due to an inordinate number of snow days which seniors do not have to make up, I may need to shorten the unit. In your opinion which letters are must reads and which are somewhat dispensible? Thanks in advance for any advice.


    • Hi Heather. If you email me at junkola [at] gmail [dot] com, I can send you an outline and discussion questions I used some time ago.
      Letters 1 & 2 go together. Ltr 8 is important. 12 & 13 are the conversion and follow up. Ltr 17 on gluttony is brilliant; Ltrs 18-20 on marriage is shocking, but good points on love. Ltr 22 when he falls in love is brilliant rhetoric (listen to John Cleese read it!). Ltr 28 is good, and you could finish ltrs 28-31 together.
      Does that help? It reduced by half.


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