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 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. 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.
Destination: Merton and Magdalen Colleges, Oxford
Websites: www.merton.ox.ac.uk and www.magd.ox.ac.uk
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.