Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in Oxford 


How did two Oxford dons invent modern British fantasy and revitalise the study of medieval literature? How were they influenced by each other, by their friends the Inklings, and by the upheavals of their own era? What made Oxford into such a fabulous portal to marvellous worlds? All this and more will be explored with a leading expert and with guided tours in the footsteps of Tolkien and Lewis.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.


Unlikely Allies:
Ranging across favourite reading, schools, youthful friendships, personal lives, early religious outlooks, and First World War soldiering experiences, we learn what Lewis and Tolkien had in common when they met in 1925, and what they did not. We join their conspiracy to revolutionise the Oxford English School. Sampling their poetry, we read Tolkien’s epic romance of Beren and Lúthien through Lewis’s eyes.


Mythopoeia, Allegory, and Inklings:
We listen in on the late-night conversation that turned Lewis to Christianity in 1931, and ponder whether it changed Tolkien too. Weighing up two radically different attempts to see through medieval eyes, we pitch Tolkien’s Hobbit against Lewis’s scholarly approach. We join the thinking, drinking Inklings and find what Owen Barfield, Charles Williams and others brought to the brew.


A Pact, Atlantis, and the Planets:
In the mid-1930s Tolkien and Lewis agreed to write a science fiction story each. We pursue Lewis powering through his space trilogy, and see what we can salvage from the flotsam of Tolkien’s unfinished time-travel experiment, The Lost Road. We measure how much Tolkien went into Lewis’s hero, Elwin Ransom; and, glancing forward to the 1940s, we ponder Tolkien’s Notion Club Papers as a portrait of the Inklings.


The Lion, the Witch, and the War of the Ring:
Unrolling our maps, we explore two remarkable worlds as attempts to reconsecrate nature and refill the wells of the imagination. We trace Lewis’ impact on Middle-earth and Tolkien’s on Narnia. And we ask: what was Tolkien’s problem with the Chronicles? In the afternoon we follow the friends’ footsteps across Oxford and its colleges with a walking tour to Merton and Magdalen Colleges.


Divide and rule:
We watch the two men drift apart and examine what came between them: Charles Williams, Lewis’s marriage to Joy Davidman, religious differences, or something else? We ask if we are right to consider Lewis and Tolkien together, or if they are simply too different. We look at how their reputations have grown and evolved since their deaths, and what they mean to Oxford, to literature, and to the human imagination.

Field Trip

Destination: Merton and Magdalen Colleges; Oxford


Excursion Rating: Moderate - up to two hours' walk on even ground or up to an hour's walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps


Description Costs
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals per person) £1910.00
Fee option 2 (double en suite accom and meals per person) £1765.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals per person) £1765.00
Fee option 4 (twin set standard accom and meals per person) £1765.00
Fee option 5 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner per person) £1330.00


Please note there are no sources of funding (scholarships, bursaries, etc) available for applicants.


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments made via non-UK credit/debit cards and bank accounts are subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking.
  • If submitting an enrolment form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date.

Supplementary costs

  • Extended-stay fee: Participants staying multiple, consecutive weeks will be charged an additional £90 for the cost of the Saturday night between courses. An invoice will be emailed to participants alongside confirmation of their enrolment.
  • Excursion fee where applicable: £15-125. This fee is built into the above course fees and will not require a separate payment. If your course includes a day-long excursion, you may need to make your own lunch arrangements.
  • Course change administration fee: Please note that course transfers may be permitted in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the programme administrator, up to the 1 May 2023. In accordance with our Terms and Conditions, an administration fee of £50 will be charged.
  • Any ticketed activities, as outlined in the Social Programme.

Cancellations and refunds

1. Cancellation by you

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to, or by post to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid.

  • Cancellations received up to and including 30 April 2023 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2023 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2023 - no refunds will be made under any circumstances.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

2. Cancellation by us

OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course where there is good reason, for example, if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable. In these cases we will refund the course fees that you have already paid. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2023. If it is likely that the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified by email within 7 days; if you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2023, you should assume that your course will be running. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

3. Travel insurance

All participants need to purchase travel insurance to cover the programme fee, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred. OUDCE cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. 


Mr John Garth


Author of the award-winning Tolkien and the Great War and the short study Tolkien at Exeter College, John Garth is also an editor and public speaker, and was Black Mountain Institute Fellow in Humanistic Studies 2015–16. He has taught undergraduates, graduates, and others. In 2014 he co-taught an Oxford summer school on Tolkien, and in 2017 he led one on Tolkien and Lewis.

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 12 people. Elements of this teaching will normally include mini lectures and presentations by tutors and tutor-led class discussions.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Registration closes on 1 May 2023.

Please note: most courses fill up fast so early registration is strongly recommended.

Single accommodation and non-residential places may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at

Those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an enrolment form as these rooms cannot be booked online. Completed forms should be sent:

Level and demands

The Oxford Experience is aimed at non-specialists: no prior knowledge is required, and classes are pitched at an introductory level. The courses are designed for an international audience aged 18 and over.


During your course you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church, in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. The course fee includes breakfasts Monday-Saturday, lunches Sunday-Friday, and 3-course dinners Sunday-Friday. All meals are taken in Christ Church’s spectacular dining hall.

Please note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished and do not have air-conditioning. Photographs of example rooms can be found at:

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite;
  • Double en suite;
  • Twin en suite;
  • ‘Twin set’ standard.

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). ‘Twin set’ standard rooms comprise two separate single standard rooms, each with a washbasin and shaver point only, opening onto a private sitting room. Bathroom facilities are shared with other rooms. All twin, twin set and double rooms are shared between participants that apply to the programme together, and cannot be booked by individuals.

Please note that only single accommodation may be booked online; those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an enrolment form (see ‘Application’).

Please note that Christ Church rooms do not have lift access, and the higher rooms can be located up a few flights of stairs. If you need a room on a ground or lower floor please indicate this either online or on your enrolment form, or contact the programme administrator directly at prior to your arrival.

We regret that we are unable to offer accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.

Participants Attending Multiple Weeks

The Oxford Experience welcomes participants who want to attend multiple courses over a number of weeks. Resident participants staying in Christ Church for consecutive weeks will be offered a reduced rate for the Saturday night between their courses.

This extended-stay fee is £90 per person, per Saturday. An invoice will be emailed to participants alongside confirmation of their enrolment. Please note that Saturday lunch and dinner and Sunday breakfast are not provided, however we are happy to make recommendations for alternative places to eat in Oxford.