Thursday, July 22, 2010

AGTO Day Four: The Seminar

Wednesday was the C. S. Lewis focused day. Since we were going out to The Kilns, we only had about an hour for discussion, which was a shame since we'd had some really interesting reading the night before. If you have the time, I would suggest reading "Prisoner of Narnia," by Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker. It was really interesting. I didn't know very much about Lewis' early life, and the article talked about that as well as his writing. We also read Lewis' "Of This and Other Worlds."

We of course talked about the religious aspect in the Narnia books. Lewis had to fight for his religious belief. He wasn't a believer in Catholicism until he met Tolkien. Lewis looked at religion as a "true myth" and constantly was reminding himself of why he believed. In "Of This and Other Worlds," Lewis says that he doesn't write to try and please his audience, but rather writes something he would have enjoyed as a child. This doesn't seem quite right to me, as he wasn't religious as a child.

"Prisoner of Narnia" makes a really good point that Aslan and his death and resurrection isn't a true allegory for Jesus. Aslan is beautiful and strong and admired and loved and everyone is already following him. To really be an allegory, it should have been a donkey or an animal like that. This goes back to Tolkien's "On Fairies" and how we all have our filters and see good as beautiful and evil as ugly.

We took a look at an excerpt from the first chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and discussed what the transitions between worlds is like. It's really a very gentle transition. Lucy steps through the wardrobe, but when she looks back, she can still see into her own world, which is comforting. It's her own choice, and the world she comes into, although it's winter, is soft. It isn't frightening at all.

Narnia is a simpler world compared to Tolkien. Tolkien has created a world full of politics where things are not in black and white. Narnia is a straightforward good versus evil fight. If you look at the creation story of Middle Earth (The Similarion) and the creation story of Narnia (The Magician's Nephew) again, Tolkien's world is much more intricate. Narnia feels like it was created for children, although adults can enjoy it too, and Middle Earth feels like it was created for older people, although it can be enjoyed by children.

The last thing I want to mention about the "Of This and Other Worlds" articles was on escapism. Fantasy often is accused of escapism, and that it will give children unrealistic notions of the world. Lewis makes the point that children understand a book is fantasy. They don't really think they've going to walk through a wardrobe and meet a faun, or get a letter to a wizarding school. It's the realistic books that actually give you false notions of life, because those are the ones that children think could really happen to them.

Maria had gotten us taxis, since The Kilns is several miles away. The one I was in took off before the other one, which we didn't really worry about, until the driver started asking us where The Kilns was. Which of course we did not know. Don't worry! It all turned out all right.

The C. S. Lewis house was very pretty, but our tour guide informed us that when Lewis actually lived there, it was kind of gross. They weren't big into cleaning, and there were layers of soot and ash on the walls and floors and windows. So, who lived in The Kilns? Well in 1930, Lewis himself, his brother Warnie, Jane Moore and her daughter Maureen. Jane Moore was the mother of a friend of Lewis' from the war. They had promised each other to take care of each other's families should they die, and Lewis' friend did. Lewis took care of Jane for the rest of her life. Later, Joy Gresham, who Lewis married lived there too.

For ten months out of the year The Kilns is used like any other house, and scholars come and stay there. Tours are by appointment only. We couldn't go into all the rooms, because people were living in them and that would not be very polite, but we got to see a fair bit of the house. We took a look into the Common Room, which had a replica of Lewis' desk and blackout curtains still on the windows. The walls and built in bookshelves. I love built in bookshelves. One day, when I come into my librarian fortune, or I get a generous benefactor, whichever, I will have a library, and it will have bookshelves built into the wall. It will also have one of those ladders that goes all the way up to the ceiling and can roll along the walls.

In the dining room, there was a picture of Joy and her gun. Apparently she was quite the shot. And she would shoot at people she didn't like that were on the property.

There was a very cozy kitchen, with an awesome stove.

We also got to walk down the path that Tolkien and Lewis took to take a walk around the pond.

There's a famous picture of Lewis and Tolkien sitting on that bench, but I can't find it. If I do I'll link to it.

We ended in the library. Note that there are more built in bookshelves. Oh built in bookshelves, how I covet you so!

I took a lot of pictures at The Kilns, and posting them all would have been a lot. I'm working on putting them on Flickr, I'll let you know when they're all up.

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