C.S. Lewis is one of the more prolific public figures of the 20th-century. A scholar, educator, poet, fantasist, and cultural critic, this author of the globally famous Narnian chronicles produced work in dozens of different genres and modes. Thus, I am pleased that in Winter term 2022, I am going to be offering a local, live course at the University of Prince Edward Island that focuses on Lewis from the angle of leadership, communication, and culture.
Using the seven Narnian children’s novels as core texts, combined with some lessons from Lewis’ life and work, this course brings together traditional close-reading and book discussion with thematic questions related to leadership, communication, and culture.
From the Narnian adventures and characters, and from some aspects of C.S. Lewis’ public life, the course provokes conversations about models, values, and methods of leadership, including topics such as:
- C.S. Lewis as a “Public Intellectual” (considering Samuel Joeckel’s The C.S. Lewis Phenomenon);
- Institutional, political, personal, intuitive relational, and moral modes of leadership in Narnia (in conversation with Aaron Perry’s Leadership Philosophy in the Fiction of C.S. Lewis);
- 4 qualities of “Transformational Leadership” in Narnia: Idealized Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation, and Individual Consideration (from Crystal Hurd‘s research, and perhaps in conversation with her upcoming book, Leadership of C.S. Lewis: 10 Traits to Encourage Change and Growth); and
- How Narnia subverts, challenges, or deepens the reader’s images of a leader.
- C.S. Lewis and the craft of communication (which is the title of Steven A. Beebe’s new book, though others have written on this topic, such as Gary Tandy and James Como);
- C.S. Lewis as a writer, including conceptual development, drafting, editing, and publishing (and we may take a peek at Corey Latta’s C.S. Lewis and the Art of Writing);
- Lessons from C.S. Lewis as a world-builder;
- Creative collaboration and communities of authorship and the role of beta readers in producing texts (with the work of Diana Pavlac Glyer in The Company They Keep and Bandersnatch);
- C.S. Lewis as an educator (including research by Joel Heck and others);
- Narnian reflections on education, logic, common sense, and reading “the right kind of books”; and
- Some analysis of other modes of communication by C.S. Lewis, including letter-writing, the short essay, radio broadcasting, philosophical argument, controversialist writing, and the novella as a thought experiment.
This course explores the relationship of text and culture in three ways:
- cultures within the fictional world;
- the culture from which the stories emerged; and
- the cultures that receive the text.
- C.S. Lewis’ biography and worldview;
- C.S. Lewis as a cultural critic;
- The ways that race, class, and culture operate in The Chronicles of Narnia;
- How The Chronicles of Narnia create a space for thinking about cultural expectations like the roles of boys and girls, models of heroics, ethics and moral choices, and the qualities of adventure, curiosity, joy, and courage (with Monika Hilder‘s trilogy of books on C.S. Lewis and gender);
- The ways in which adaptations triangulate text, culture, and artistry;
- Translations of texts, including places where translation is politically subversive or used to build culture;
- A brief look at certain literary methods and theories—such as biographical criticism, readers response criticism, postcolonial theory, feminist, gender and queer theory, the New Criticism, and the New Historicism—and the ways that C.S. Lewis dialogues with these approaches;
- The Chronicles of Narnia as a resource for contemporary cultural criticism; and
- Using stories to dialogue within our own questions.
Students will have the opportunity to respond to the Narnian chronicles and course topics in classroom discussions and course projects designed to explore diverse pathways to learning.
I am offering “C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia: Leadership, Communication, and Culture” as part of my limited term appointment as Assistant Professor of Applied Communication, Leadership and Culture (ACLC) at UPEI in January 2022. ACLC is our interdisciplinary applied arts and digital humanities program, and I am very pleased to be a part of the team in this upcoming semester. The program’s goal is to connect the communication skills and leadership training of a traditional Liberal Arts education to successful post-graduation employment for students entering the workforce in a dynamic age. The ACLC program is defined by its focus on the transferability of written, oral, and visual communication skills, critical thinking, research capacity, and cultural awareness acquired during a Liberal Arts education to the world beyond academia. Technical skills, work-integrated learning, and career-related mentoring are central components of the program’s design.
In this C.S. Lewis course, using close readings of Narnia and a selection of various short Lewis texts, I am aiming to draw out lessons on the program’s main focal points: principles and modes of leadership, communication, and cultural criticism. In this course cross-listed as an English literature or ACLC credit, I have also designed the assignments to invite creative responses from students. This is a live, on-campus UPEI undergraduate class, though it could be the first few days of class are online because of COVID-prevention measures. I look forward to working with Lewis’ texts in what is, for me, a brand new context!