Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in Oxford

Course details

From £1380.00

Sun 11 Aug 2019 - Sat 17 Aug 2019

Tolkien and C.S. Lewis in Oxford


The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.

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, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places 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.


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:

A walk to Merton and Magdalen colleges


Excursion Rating: Moderate

Excursion Ratings: Key
(as rated by course tutors)
Easy: Up to an hour's walk on even ground or less than half an hour's walk on rough ground.
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.
Demanding: More than two hours' walk on even ground or up to two hours' walk on rough and/or steep ground or up lots of stairs and steps.


Recommended reading

Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. London: HarperCollins. 2013.

Lewis, C.S. Out of the Silent Planet. London: Harper. 2005.

Carpenter, H. The Inklings. London: HarperCollins. 2006.


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. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The fee £1545 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form.  Early application for these rooms is essential.

Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct, as these rooms cannot be booked online.

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you 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.


Programme fee (with single en-suite accom, field trip and meals): £1560.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom, field trip and meals): £1380.00


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, and co-taught an OUDCE summer school on Tolkien in 2014.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Online registration closes on Wednesday 1 May 2019 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.