C.S. Lewis is an author that sends us elsewhere. We pick up The Silver Chair and discover that our ill-used copy of The Divine Comedy needs some time. We pull down Out of the Silent Planet, and then instinctively reach for H.G. Wells. When we are lost in Perelandra, a literary suspicion arises in us that this rich book would be even richer if we reread our Milton. In an age of books designed to be accessible for readers too busy to read, it is encouraging to encounter an author who is so very simple on the surface, but whose work is many layers deep.
Lewis’ That Hideous Strength is one of those deeply layered pieces. It is a puzzling book, bringing in the dystopia tradition, classic SF, the Lord of the Rings, Arthur in prophecy and medieval romance. Yet there is another element in That Hideous Strength that is unique to this book. It was that element that sent me to Lewis’ friend and fellow Inkling, Charles Williams.
Without the link to Lewis and Tolkien, Charles Williams may have been in some danger of being a forgotten poet. His work is obscure, a kind of inventive genius and perversity combined, where abstractions are literalized and symbols may be in danger of coming to life and devouring the characters (or the reader).
With a writer like Charles Williams, it is okay to have a guide.
Sørina Higgins is a leading Williams scholar, curator of the Oddest Inkling blog, and editor of The Chapel of the Thorn, an unpublished Charles Williams play from 1912. From time to time she recruits a number of guest writers to do a series. The current one is ambitious: to have a blog on each of the poems of Williams’ Arthurian book, Taliessin through Logres.
The 24 poems are covered by students and scholars, exploring the themes in reflections, queries, and critical pieces. My own piece is a longer literary critical reflection on “The Son of Lancelot.” I had some notes written the last time I read Taliessin through Logres (last winter), and Sørina’s call for papers gave me a chance to write out my thoughts. Check out my piece on Williams’ Arthuriad as Jewish Apocalypse, and then go to the other (shorter!) pieces to see the varied and complex ways that readers respond to his poetry.
Here is Post #17 in the Series on Taliessin through Logres! It’s a long one, but a good one. Please visit the INTRODUCTION to this series first, and here is the INDEX to the other posts in the series.
Today’s post is by Brenton D. G. Dickieson.
Brenton D. G. Dickieson (@BrentonDana) holds a B.A. from Maritime Christian College and an M.C.S. from Regent College and is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Chester. Brenton teaches at Maritime Christian College, the University of Prince Edward Island, Regent College, and Signum University. Brenton is the author of the popular Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction blog A Pilgrim in Narnia. Brenton lives with his wife Kerry and their son Nicolas in the almost-fictional land of Prince Edward Island.
Charles Williams’ Arthurian Apocalypse: Thoughts on “The Son of Lancelot”
I was relieved when I came to this first line…
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