Thanks to the smooth voice and broadcasting know-how of C.S. Lewis kingmaker William O’Flaherty, I am able to share with you the audio of my recent talk at the C.S. Lewis and Friends Colloquium at Taylor University in Upland, IN. This is the second time I was able to attend the Taylor Conference. In 2012, I presented a paper called, “Teaching Screwtape for a New Generation” (you can read the full paper and hear the talk here). It was the place that truly launched my academic work in C.S. Lewis, and I was pleased to return in June 2016.
Overall, the quality of the papers at the conference was quite strong, and I was struck by the level of engagement by a number of the students. It was also an environment where senior and established academics and writers engaged critically with the younger and emerging scholars. As one of the latter party, it was an ideal environment to play with ideas and ask for feedback.
Here is the abstract of the paper I presented:
Recently, I had the opportunity to publish an archival piece that reconfigures our understanding of C.S. Lewis’ WWII-era fiction project. A previously unpublished handwritten preface to The Screwtape Letters shows that Lewis played with the idea of including Screwtape in the same “other world” as the science fiction books that feature Dr. Elwin Ransom. Using this manuscript evidence, it is important to test the critical limits of an extended Ransom fictional universe—to inquire of the usefulness of including Screwtape’s abysmal underworld in the mythic construct of the Field of Arbol. I will suggest a rereading of Perelandra in light of this speculative worldview re-orientation. If a Screwtapian reading of Perelandra confirms the value of considering these books as part of a Ransom Cycle—rather than merely a Space Trilogy—we can imagine the significance for future work in a number of areas, including Lewis’s invented language and angelology, as well the breadth of his mythmaking project.
It is a fun talk that feeds into the larger project of looking at C.S. Lewis’ WWII-era fiction as a whole. I cannot yet share the entire paper, but you can hear the talk on William’s “All About Jack” podcast (click here). You can follow along in the Prezi (click here), which is like an online slide show. I cannot provide the handout I used in the session, but you can see the full “Ransom Preface” if you click here, or find the original publication here.
You will also see William’s paper (in the same session of mine), “Battlefield of the Mind: Examining Screwtape’s Preferred Method.” There is a bit of interplay between the two paper–something I played up for fun in my talk. William is also pointing back to his book, C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell. William has interviewed me a number of times for All About Jack, so I was pleased to turn the tape recorder on to him when his book came out (check it out here).
Working on The Screwtape Letters, I have also created a Manuscript Timeline and wrote about How Screwtape Was Introduced to the World in its humble little fashion. I hope this contributes to the growing interest in considering Screwtape for its merits as a piece of speculative fiction and as a cultural artifact.