The Literary Past and Future in C.S. Lewis’ “The Quest of Bleheris”: My Talk Tonight at the New York C.S. Lewis Society (Fri, Apr 8, 2022, 7:30pm Eastern on Zoom)

I am very pleased to be speaking tonight at the New York C.S. Lewis Society, the world’s oldest active society for sharing the enjoyment and considering the impact of C.S. Lewis‘ life and works. The New York C.S. Lewis Society was founded in 1969, six years after Lewis passed away. A quick trip to the webpage will give you a sense of their remarkable contribution. Besides monthly meetings, they also produce CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society–a society newsletter that never fails to provide enjoyment and profit for the reader. In each issue, you will find news, reviews, and book notes, but also an academic essay and some occasional features, like Dale Nelson–who has contributed from time to time on A Pilgrim in Narnia–and his “Jack and the Bookshelf” series (now numbering into the 50s in number). Although I have been able to purchase the back issues of CSL that I need for research, over the years, I have been gifted a handful of old copies of the Bulletin. I treasure these with my old scattered issues of Mythlore and The Canadian C.S. Lewis Society Journal.

Thus, you can understand why I have confessed that I had been hoping to one day speak to this group.

My last visit to New York was to study the manuscript of The Screwtape Letters in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library (the lion library in NYC, or the Ghostbusters library for folks from the ’80s) and the original print run of Screwtape in The Guardian at the General Theological Seminary archive. However, that visit was in August, when the society has a hiatus.

So while I hope to gather with these great folk in person at some point soon, for now, I am pleased to be able to share some of my research on C.S. Lewis’ first attempt at prose, his 19,000-word incomplete story, “The Quest of Bleheris,” which he wrote when he was 17.

Below you can find the New York C.S. Lewis Society announcement from Facebook. Readers might also be interested in next month’s NYCSL talk by founding member of the society, James Como, and his new book, Mystical Perelandra: My Lifelong Reading of C.S. Lewis and His Favorite Book. Here is the blurb I wrote for Como’s unusual and provocative Perelandra study, which should be out by the end of the month:

“In Mystical Perelandra, Como draws us into the mysterious heart of the reader’s experience, living within rather than merely analyzing Lewis’ literary vision. The result is alchemical, poetic, and mercurial, a narrative spiritual theology where we imbibe the transcendent nature of Ransom’s planetary journey through Como’s imaginative, sacramental, life-integrated, mystical experience as a reader. And we are all the richer for his efforts. Como’s reflections on Perelandra transport us, like Ransom, to a world of myth and meaning much greater than a book.”

The Literary Past and Future in C.S. Lewis’ “The Quest of Bleheris”

This Friday, Brenton Dickieson will be speaking about C.S. Lewis’s first attempt at a novel, “The Quest of Bleheris.” Though it was only available in an archive in the decades following its composition in 1916, the full text is now available in the 2020 version of Sehnsucht: The C. S. Lewis Journal: Volume 14, 2020. The full text is about 19,000 words, and though incomplete, this teenage chivalric tale by C.S. Lewis is worth reading.

Dr. Brenton Dickieson is the author of more than 1,300 articles, blog posts, essays, and reviews, and is the curator of aPilgrimInNarnia.com, which explores the intersections of faith, fantasy, and fiction. Brenton works primarily as a theologian of literature, with a Master’s degree from Regent College and a PhD from the University of Chester. Brenton is currently an Associate Professor in Applied Communications, Leadership, and Culture at the University of Prince Edward Island, Adjunct Instructor in Literature at The King’s College (New York City), Lecturer in Theology and Literature at Maritime Christian College, Distance Education Instructor in Spiritual Theology at Regent College, and Lecturer and Preceptor in Signum University’s M.A. in Imaginative Literature program. Brenton is under contract with Oxford University Press for his forthcoming book, The Shape of the Cross in C.S. Lewis’s Narrative Spiritual Theology. Brenton lives in beautiful Prince Edward Island with his superstar kindergarten teacher wife, Kerry, and their teenage son, Nicolas, a singer-songwriter.

Follow the link for information on how to join the Zoom meeting on April 8 at 7:30 p.m: http://www.nycslsociety.com/meetings

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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10 Responses to The Literary Past and Future in C.S. Lewis’ “The Quest of Bleheris”: My Talk Tonight at the New York C.S. Lewis Society (Fri, Apr 8, 2022, 7:30pm Eastern on Zoom)

  1. Allyson says:

    Looking forward to your talk tonight.

    Like

  2. danaames says:

    Oh, nice! Invited to blurb a book and also speak to a very eminent gathering. Congratulations- break a leg 🙂

    Dana

    Like

  3. Cecilia Zeichner says:

    Ah, I’m sorry I missed this talk. Many congratulations!

    Like

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Will there be a print (and/or filmed – or audio – online) version of this talk?

    I see one can order copies of Volume 14, 2020 of Sehnsucht via the website of the publisher, Wipf and Stock – and even read a fair bit of “The Quest of Bleheris” by clicking “Preview this Title” on the page for that volume!

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      That “preview” seems to be approaching the first half of it, if the page numbers are anything to go by – and is tantalizing, though I can imagine the whole of the incomplete work may be even more tantalizing! The reference to Jane Austen sits very oddly with the pastiche-mediaeval diction. And what Don King calls the “narrator’s skeptical mockery” in combination with the mediaeval knightly adventure leaves me wondering if that is unusual, or if it is a combination I simply have no proper sense of – it does not remind me of as much of Cervantes I have sampled, or, say, of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (but is my memory dull, here?)… or is, for example, James Branch Cabell or Lord Dunsany like this – my having sampled to little of either to give me an accurate sense…? Does Lewis have models for this, is he playing with a style familiar to him, though not to me? (I should probably try as much of Don King’s “Introduction” as is available as “preview”…)

      Like

  5. Wayne Stauffer says:

    Have you seen the article “metaphysical animals” in this week’s Chronicle of Education? It talks about Elizabeth Anscombe and other women philosophers at Oxford during Lewis’ time there.

    wayno sent from my phone

    On Fri, Apr 8, 2022, 7:15 AM A Pilgrim in Narnia wrote:

    > Brenton Dickieson posted: “I am very pleased to be speaking tonight at the > New York C.S. Lewis Society, the world’s oldest active society for sharing > the enjoyment and considering the impact of C.S. Lewis’ life and works. The > New York C.S. Lewis Society was founded in 1969, six yea” >

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Thanks for this! We had an interesting talk by Basil Mitchell at the Oxford Lewis Society that might tie in with this – I remember him speaking about Iris Murdoch and the Metaphysicals as part of it. (I see that there is a concise note about the Metaphysicals in David Brown’s 2013 article on him in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the British Academy.) I also see from her Wikipedia article that as an undergraduate during World War II Iris Murdoch “studied philosophy with Donald M. MacKinnon” – an ‘Inklings connection’. All of which reminds me of a fascinating discussion with Alice P. Kenney about Murdoch’s A Severed Head and Lewis’s That Hideous Strength – her related paper ‘The Mythic History of “A Severed Head”‘ in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 15, No. 3, Iris Murdoch Special Number (Autumn, 1969) is available online with those with JSTOR access.

      Like

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