Thesis Theater: Maximilian Hart, “Draconic Diction: Truth and Lies in Le Guin’s Old Speech” (Mon, Aug 16, 6pm Eastern)

I was pleased this summer to be the second reader for an exciting project by one of Signum University’s bright MA students. Beginning with curiosity about “Old Speech” in Ursula K. Le Guin‘s Earthsea series, Maximilian Hart has pulled together a paper that draws on linguistic theory, Platonism, and Taoism in a conversation between Le Guin and the theories of language and story of the InklingsC.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the oft-forgotten but ever-present Owen Barfield. And, best of all, there are dragons–and the question about whether dragons can deceive in Old Speech. If you enjoy Le Guin’s work, or if you are curious to see the Inklings as thinkers in writers in dialogue with a later speculative fiction writer, I would encourage you to join this free, one-hour, online event. And in case you missed it, there may be a spot or two open in the brand new Le Guin course that I am precepting for, with lectures by Kris Swank (Max’s supervisor).

Thesis Theater: Maximilian Hart, “Draconic Diction: Truth and Lies in Le Guin’s Old Speech” (Mon, Aug 16, 6pm Eastern)

Signum master’s student Maximilian Hart will present his thesis “Draconic Diction: Truth and Lies in Le Guin’s Old Speech” and respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. The discussion will be facilitated by Maximilian’s thesis supervisor, Kris Swank.

Thesis Abstract

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series enters an ongoing dialogue about the nature of language; in it, she proposes a language spoken by dragons and wizards, “the Old Speech,” a language fundamentally unlike our human languages. It is a language in which it is impossible to lie, a language which is simultaneously descriptive and generative: to say the name of a thing is to have the thing come to be. This Old Speech is what the ancient poetic unity of language—to use Owen Barfield’s terms—might look like: a language in which the Tao, the underlying reality of a thing, is named in every word, a language in which every word is a narrative and true. However, dragons, not the titular, and ostensibly central, wizards, are the true poets of Earthsea; the dragons are the ones who see with a poet’s eye and who are actually capable of wielding the Old Speech in its ancient, unified, fully poetic sense, a sense which encompasses all shades of meaning and existence and narrative in one word. Le Guin’s Old Speech, then, can best be understood as a true language of Barfieldian ancient unity, and the dragons are not liars but poets practicing their art.

About the Presenter

Maximilian Hart is a high school English teacher and has been a student at Signum University since 2016. His academic focus is currently on studying the works of Ursula K. Le Guin and her approaches to language. When he’s not reading books for class or his own high school students’ papers, he’s spending time with his wife and children or pretending to improve at chess or woodworking.

About Signum Thesis Theaters

Each of our master’s students writes a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theater is their opportunity to present their research to a general audience, and answer questions. All are welcome to attend!

Click Here to sign up for this free, online event.

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 Thesis Theater: Maximilian Hart, “Draconic Diction: Truth and Lies in Le Guin’s Old Speech” (Mon, Aug 16, 6pm Eastern)

  1. Thanks Brenton for this announcement. I look forward to attending the talk this evening.
    Best wishes, Owen


  2. Pingback: Thesis Theater: Maximilian Hart, “Draconic Diction: Truth and Lies in Le Guin’s Old Speech” (Mon, Aug 16, 6pm Eastern) – Glyn Hnutu-healh: History, Alchemy, and Me

  3. Pingback: 2021: My Year in Books: The Infographic | A Pilgrim in Narnia

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