Friendship was an absolutely critical part of C.S. Lewis’ life. His lifelong friendship with his brother created a literary household. Lewis’ childhood and university friendships helped him renegotiate his core values and his life philosophy. The Oxford Inklings, the main space for Lewis’ professional friendships, was a group that worked together to (and sometimes against one another) to produce groundbreaking linguistic history, literary history, literary criticism, Christian apologetics, and fiction–a group out of which came The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia. And as Lewis was writing Narnia, his memoir, and his acclaimed work of literary fiction, Till We Have Faces, Lewis developed a friendship with American poet, Joy Davidman. That friendship would grow into romantic love, giving life to new projects and, upon Joy’s death, a transformative memoir of loss, A Grief Observed.
One of the most powerful chapters in C.S. Lewis’s book, The Four Loves, is his treatment of friendship. Because friendship is so important for Lewis, and because Lewis’ writings have been so inspirational to readers, a discussion about Friendship and Narnia could be valuable. This worked well earlier this semester, “C.S. Lewis, Gender, and The Four Loves: An Open Class.” I decided to give this another go, opening up the digital classroom to discuss “Narnia and Friendship.”
And I brought some friends along! Besides a number of great folk across the world, I was joined “in-studio” by C.S. Lewis scholars Diana Pavlac Glyer and Jason Lepojärvi. Dr. Glyer has written books on the power of friendship for artistic production among Lewis and the Inklings. I have talked up her groundbreaking research book, The Company They Keep, which is offered in a more popular form for artists and readers in Bandersnatch. Dr. Lepojärvi’s PhD dissertation was on Lewis and Love, offering a sophisticated reading of Lewis’ theology of love (you can download “God is love, but love is not God: C. S. Lewis’s theology of love” here).
This supplemental, open class to Signum’s course on C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love & Sex worked really well, I think. Diana was there for an hour of the 90-minute discussion. Jason asked an amazing question at the very end, which is worth another whole hour! And I had a terrible charlie horse for 5 minutes that I found very difficult to hide. In any case, this is a strong discussion that should deepen your reading of Narnia generally and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader specifically. And I hope it works to extend C.S. Lewis’ important and problematic book, The Four Loves, and as a companion to our open class earlier in the semester.
If you are interested in Signum University’s creative and accessible online MA in literature and linguistics, feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.