C. S. Lewis and Friends Colloquium Postponed, but Student Paper Contest Continues

Here is a victim of COVID-19 that I talked about on Monday. The 2020 C.S. Lewis & Friends Colloquium at Taylor University has been postponed from June 2020 to June 2021. I am quite disappointed as this was part of a large research and conference sweep, with presentations in London, ON, Uplands, IN, and Wheaton, IL, a great research schedule for the Marion E. Wade Center, and visits with family and friends in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Illinois, and Indiana. However, the decision works in a lot of great ways:

  • The decision to postpone now, 11 weeks before the event, shows strong leadership in the midst of a crisis and allows people near and far to adjust their plans.
  • The conference is rescheduled for Jun 3-6, 2021, which means there is plenty of time to make plans (and to get those papers written!).
  • A postponement also works well for scholars, as our accepted proposals are still accepted, so we can still use this as a CV line (really important for emerging scholars and academics under review for advancement or tenure).
  • And, exciting for students, the Student Writing Competition is still active and open! The deadline is Mar 31st, but I suspect they’ll extend that a bit. This undergraduate essay competition not only awards a prize, but also includes free registration for 2021. It’s a good deal.

A little good news mixed with the not-so-good news. Fortunately, they are trying to re-book all of the plenary speakers lined up for 2020 including Monika Hilder, Jane Chance, Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, Don King, Diana Glyer, Jason Lepojärvi, and Charles Huttar (note that there are 3 Canadians there!). The theme remains the same (see below), and I have my own presentation abstract attached below if you are interested. I want to talk more about C.S. Lewis and Gender, particularly in moving Monika Hilder’s research forward. And, best, of all, the 2021 conference will be filled with engaging papers, artistic expression, and fellowship at table and abroad.

So many of our great conferences cannot make this kind of accommodation and recreate the entire event for a date further out. If you are of the philanthropic persuasion, consider investing in the Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends at Taylor University. This is not in their materials about the postponement but my own note of consideration. No doubt this will be crushing to some, but I hope that as we start peeking outside our doors again in the future we can look forward to this great event.

Here is my proposal:

“As High as My Spirit, As Small as My Stature”: C.S. Lewis’ Theology of the Small and Monika Hilder’s Theological Feminism

Canadian literary critic Monika Hilder has provided a model for reading Lewis’ fiction that she calls “theological feminism.” Hilder outlines a consistent “feminine heroic” in Lewis’ fiction that resists, critiques, and transforms classical-masculine models. Some critics claim that Lewis’ medieval-soaked imagistic approach to gender creates damaging exclusivities. Hilder argues that, by contrast, Lewis uses gender metaphors in remarkably gender-inclusive ways.

Though Hilder’s well-reviewed work provides a turning point in Lewis studies, the full impact of her thesis has not yet been exploited. This paper considers the implications of Hilder’s thesis for Lewis’ narrative spiritual theology. In taking feminist critics seriously, we discover the upside-down form of Lewis’ moral thought that emerges from the interrogation of his spiritual theology. This inversive, even subversive element in his thinking offers possibilities for a hopeful, holistic spirituality of the cross evident in his fiction and nonfiction. Combining Hilder’s feminist literary criticism with a careful concentration upon Lewis’ crucicentric theology leads ultimately to what I call Lewis’ “theology of the small”—an ironic spirituality that subverts culturally constructed expectations. Extending past the specific questions of gender Hilder is addressing, I argue that there is an inversive quality inherent to Lewis’ thought that confirms the comedic, eucatastrophic narrative pattern at the centre of his theology.

Beyond what I’m going there to talk about, the conference theme is intriguing, calling upon Dorothy L. Sayers’ 1938 essay, “Are Women Human?” My own proposal is working with the research of one of the keynotes, Monika Hilder, on C.S. Lewis’ theological feminism. Here is the original announcement:

Are WomEn Human (Yet)?
Gender and the Inklings
C. S. Lewis & Friends Colloquium
Taylor University
New Date: Jun 3-6, 2021


JOIN US for our 12th Biennial C. S. Lewis & Friends Colloquium, June 4-7, 2020. Sponsored by Taylor University’s Center for the Study of C. S. Lewis & Friends, the Colloquium features keynote addresses from top scholars in the field, plus hundreds of presentations of both original scholarship and original creative work in paper sessions, workshops, panel discussions, performances, artist exhibitions, and much more. The Colloquium welcomes scholars, teachers, students, life-long learners, fans, seekers, and, as always, new friends to be part of our adventurous company. For the first time in our history, and as part of our mission to identify and support the next generation of friends, the Colloquium will feature a one-day pre-conference especially for “Young Inklings” on June 3.

Of course, this liveliest of conferences will have its usual dramatic performances, board games, late night singalongs, tea and biscuits,  and the return of the fabulous pop-up bookstore by Eighth Day Books. In addition, The 2020 Colloquium will also once again include the opportunity to buy used and rare copies of books by Lewis & Friends authors. Come discover why Devin Brown says “The Taylor University Lewis Colloquium is the premier Inklings conference on the planet, with something for every level of scholar.”

Plenary Speakers: We are happy to announce that our plenary speakers for 2020 include Monika Hilder, Jane Chance, Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson, Don King, Diana Glyer, Jason Lepojärvi, and Charles Huttar.

Conference Theme: The 2020 Colloquium program will highlight the specific theme of “Are WomEn Human (Yet)? Gender and the Inklings.” Over eighty years after Dorothy L. Sayers first posed her startling question (and in honor of the centennial of woman’s suffrage), we think it is high time to acknowledge and celebrate women in the lives and works of authors like C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, and George MacDonald, but also to look carefully at their attitudes towards and relationships with women. We also hope to encourage new scholarship on individuals such as Ruth Pitter, Joy Davidman, Mary Neylan, Barbara Reynolds, Louisa and Lilia MacDonald, Ida Gordon, Katherine Farrer, Sister Penelope, Anne Ridler, and others whose contributions have been insufficiently noticed and/or undervalued in the shadow of their more famous friends. In keynote addresses, panel discussions, paper presentations, and creative work of all kinds, we will explore together these topics and many others. As always, papers on more general topics are also encouraged.

Call for Papers: We invite proposals for scholarly papers on any topic related to C. S. Lewis and his circle (broadly defined) – Owen Barfield, G. K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and others. We are especially interested in papers on the conference theme, papers that expand the horizons of previous scholarship, and papers from new and emerging scholars. We also invite creative work—poetry, fiction, essay, drama, film, visual art, musical composition—that responds to or is influenced by the conference theme and/or these authors.  Proposals should be 100-200 words in length and should anticipate a twenty-minute presentation time limit.  Creative work must be a complete work, rather than a proposalDeadline for proposals is February 15, 2020. All proposals will be considered on a rotating basis.

Complete information, including submission instructions, will be available soon at our website: library.taylor.edu/cslewis. Direct all proposal-related questions to jsricke@taylor.edu. Please address all other questions to cslewiscenter@taylor.edu.

Young Inklings Pre-Conference: College and university undergraduates are invited to the first-ever “Young Inklings” event on June 3. The complete student registration package will include lodging, meals, and the events of that day, as well as the main conference. Students will have the opportunity to attend special lectures and participate in workshops with leading scholars, as well as to present their own scholarly and creative work. Work submitted for the student writings contests (see below) will be considered for presentation at both the pre-conference and the Colloquium.

Student Essay Contest: Currently enrolled undergraduate students may submit complete critical essays on the work of C. S. Lewis or a related author (see Call for Papers above for further information). Essays should not exceed ten double-spaced pages, excluding Works Cited. Winners will present their papers at the Colloquium and will receive free registration, room, and board. First place will receive a cash award as well. Deadline for student essays is March 31, 2020. For further information and submission instructions, please see our website at library.taylor.edu/cslewis.

Student Creative Writing Contest: Currently enrolled undergraduate students may submit creative writing (poetry, prose, drama, creative non-fiction, graphic novels, screenplays, etc.). Submissions should not exceed ten double-spaced pages (and should be at least five pages). The creative works should show familiarity with and influence by (or response to) the works of C. S. Lewis and his circle (broadly defined). Winners will present their papers at the Colloquium and will receive free registration, room, and board. First place will receive a cash award as well. Deadline for student creative work is March 31, 2020. For further information and submission instructions, please see our website at library.taylor.edu/cslewis.

Keep in Mind: The best way to be aware of Colloquium news and updates is to pay attention to our new website: library.taylor.edu/cslewis. Colloquium announcements and other important information will also be added regularly on our Facebook page (please “like” to make sure you are in the loop): https://www.facebook.com/cslewiscenter/.

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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3 Responses to C. S. Lewis and Friends Colloquium Postponed, but Student Paper Contest Continues

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    This sounds sensible – and, if the Call for Paper deadline gets extended, too, maybe I’ll even get a chance to come up with a proposal…

    In any case good wishes to the organizers for tackling all the complicated details and the participants for working on to good effect!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Just reading M.V. [Mary Vivian, “usually known as Molly”] Hughes (1866-1956), A London Family Between the Wars (OUP, 1940), which is vivid and delightful, and I see that her Wikipedia article says its predecessor, “A London Girl of the 1880s [1936] provides an unparalleled portrait of life in a Victorian women’s college”. The others in this series of memoirs are A London Child of the 1870s (1934) and A London Home in the 1890s (1937) – and all. so far as I can see, were published by the OUP while Charles Williams was working there. The variety and details of her books as listed in her Wikipedia article invite notice. She seems like an interesting writer to add to those noted in the conference details!


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