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CSLSC Summer Lecture Series

PostPosted: Jul 15, 2016 1:20 pm
by shastastwin
Last month I was amazed to discover that there was a C.S. Lewis Society in my immediate area, and what's more they were hosting a series of lectures over the summer nearby. I thought I'd share the gist of the first lecture with you all. (I'll get the second one up when I can.)

(More information about the group can be found at

C.S. Lewis and Star Wars
This first lecture took Lewis' thoughts on stories in general and science fiction in particular and applied them to the Star Wars franchise. In his letters, Lewis revealed his appreciation for the genre and noted what he was reading as he kept up with it. He also corresponded with Arthur C. Clarke on the subject.

Most of his views on the matter relevant to this lecture were laid out in an essay "On Science Fiction" (found in various collections like Of Other Worlds). In that essay, he lays out 5 "subspecies" of sci-fi: 1) the "tasteless" leap into the future (an ordinary story that could be anywhere); 2) stories for the engineers (all about the tech); 3) scientific speculation (very exploratory, distant lands and worlds explored); 4) eschatological (the end of man and time); and 5) simple imaginative play (Lewis' favorite).

There was discussion of where we would place Star Wars in this categorization. I argued for 5, possibly 3, but there were arguments for 2 as well. 1 and 4 were right out because it takes place "a long time ago". ;)

Then Dr. Beckmann, the lecturer, raised the question of whether Lewis would have liked Star Wars, pointing out that the franchise is a myth patterned after the monomyth or hero's journey. (See also Lewis' definition of myth in Miracles.) He also stated that Lewis would have appreciated the series' attempts to counter materialism (although they veer into gnosticism and dualism).

We moved then into the problems of the Force as a vague energy field as opposed to God. The prophecies of the chosen one lack power if there is no mind behind them. This comes from the Force's roots in pantheism and dualism. Pantheism of course runs counter to Christianity by stating that God is both everywhere and everything (whereas Christianity teaches God is everywhere, but not everything). Pantheism acts as an equalizer, bringing everything into a certain oneness and removing the differences between good and evil. Dualism states that good and evil always exist (have always existed, will always exist) and perpetually battle. The Force takes a little from pantheistic unity, Zoroastrian dualism, and the yin-yang concept of balance. However, it only acts as the backdrop for everything in the story.

Dr. Beckmann then transitioned into the issue of the midichlorians in The Phantom Menace. As the lecturer put it, "Lucas confuses the matter with matter." That is, he makes the supernatural Force a natural result of the midichlorians, which are physical (if microscopic) entities. [We paused here to discuss how this might have been an example of Lucas following societal trends; the original trilogy followed the movements of hippie-ism and New Age philosophy and the prequels took more of a materialistic view, and now the sequels are moving back toward a spiritual concept.] According to Dr. Beckmann, Lewis would probably have hated the midichlorians because they reduce or remove the supernatural in the world of Star Wars.

Dr. Beckmann concluded the lecture with an overview and review of Lost Stars, one of the new wave of Star Wars books being released to tie in with the new films. He praised its use or moral exploration into the characters' choices and its portrayal of a complex world with complex characters who can't always be easily lumped into "the good guys" and "the bad guys" (just like the real world).

Other sources referred to during the lecture included Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, The Last Battle, and the essay "Unreal Estates".

Re: CSLSC Summer Lecture Series

PostPosted: Aug 09, 2016 6:07 pm
by shastastwin
There was another lecture tonight: "Forgotten Stories of C.S. Lewis" (although it might be better called "Lesser Known Stories").

Dr. Beckmann started out by discussing "The Dark Tower," Lewis' unfinished Ransom story that takes place between Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra. The other main feature that he pointed out was this story's playing with time like the Narnia stories do (albeit in a different fashion).

The most interesting part of the lecture for me was the section on The Screwtape Letters. There exists an earlier version of the Preface to that book at the Wade Center which makes reference to Dr. Ransom and explains that the letters were translated by him from Old Solar. This alternate preface would make TSL a part of the Ransom books, "the Ransom Cycle" as Dr. Beckmann put it when you include "The Dark Tower". (Incidentally, a friend of mine once theorized that the patient from TSL is the dreamer/narrator in The Great Divorce, which might be an interesting trail to follow in light of the TSL-Ransom connection.)

The Pilgrim's Regress was next; it was apparently written in 2 weeks while Lewis was visiting Arthur Greeves in Ireland. :O Dr. B contrasted it with Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress in that the protagonists have to follow opposite tracks (learning vs. unlearning). That'll be interesting to explore when I finally read TPR.

We touched briefly on The Great Divorce, mainly to look at George MacDonald's influence on Lewis and how MacDonald is to Lewis' narrator as Virgil is to Dante in the Inferno.

Then we talked about Till We Have Faces in the light of spiritual conversion, with Orual as the person whose loved one has recently found Christianity. I wasn't a fan of this interpretation, founded though it may be, because I thought it took away from the larger look at love generally (esp. in light of The Four Loves) that Lewis seems more interested in. We also discussed the main thrust of the title and the section it's pulled from -- having to come face to face with your truest self before you can face the gods.

The lecture then moved quickly through the other short stories included in The Dark Tower and/or Of Other Worlds before moving on to the stories in Lewis' poems. There are more Greek myths and MacDonald influences to be found there. Dr. Beckmann read a few of the shorter poems aloud, including an excellent reading (in character) of "The Dragon Speaks." I wish I'd thought to get a recording of it. It was wonderful!

Overall, it was an enjoyable evening and encouraged me to reread a lot of Lewis' fiction that I haven't gone back to in a while.