Afternoon Seminars

The afternoon seminars for the 2022 C.S. Lewis Summer Institute will take place in three parts on

  • Friday, July 29
  • Monday, August 1
  • Wednesday, August 3

Most of the seminars will take place between 2:30 and 5 PM (if they will take place at a different time in the afternoon, the times will be listed on the session below)

Please note that registrants of the conference will choose one afternoon seminar each, which will run in three parts on three days of the conference.

Academic Roundtable

Time: 2:30 – 5:45 P.M.

Speaker: Gayne Anacker

The Academic Roundtable is a community of interdisciplinary scholarly engagement and “Intellectual Hospitality,” which will occur on Friday, July 29 and Wednesday, August 3. Faculty from diverse disciplines will share their papers with each other, offering insights and critical comments from their respective vantage points.

Note: the Academic Roundtable is for those who will be presenting papers as part of the Roundtable program. If you have have been selected for the academic roundtable, this will be your afternoon seminar choice. 

Creative Writing Workshop

Speaker: Davis Bunn

To make writing your professional vocation means entering into the commercial world of publishing or film or both. These days, one of the most crucial issues that every would-be professional author must face is, how to shape an overview that sells. Pitching your idea is absolutely vital. But arriving at the point where you have successfully distilled four hundred pages into two sentences, or two paragraphs, or the standard maximum length of one page, is extremely difficult. There are two important factors that are often missed by would-be authors. First, preparing a successful overview can be broken down into a series of well-defined stages. And second, this process can play a crucial role in helping you hone your entire writing project.

Following this, we will examine the principal elements required for a solid first chapter.  Nowadays this is all an agent or publisher will want to see in your initial presentation – the one sentence pitch, the one page overview, and the first chapter.  This second portion will hopefully assist both novelists and non-fiction writers.  In previous sessions, screenwriters have also found this helpful, as formation of a script’s first act follows many of these same rules.

Each of the three classes will follow the same routine; a one-hour lecture, followed by ninety minutes where the students can (a) work on an exercise specifically designed to help create one element of a successful pitch, and (b) enjoy a one-on-one discussion regarding your current project.

Our aim is that by the end of these classes, you will have the core foundations for a successful pitch.

Sharing Our Stories Workshop

Speaker: Matthew Clark

“When people told themselves their past with stories, explained their present with stories, foretold the future with stories, the best place by the fire was kept for the storyteller.” So opened Jim Henson’s 80s folktale show “The Storyteller”, which harkened back to a long-standing tradition of oral storytelling (and storylistening). Tolkien put it this way in his essay On Fairy Stories, “The incarnate mind, the tongue, and the tale are in our world coeval.” Lewis and Tolkien understood that to be a person is to be both involved in a Grand Tale of God’s making and to be sub-creative storytellers ourselves. What obstacles stand in the way of us seeing our storied reality? How can we learn again to tell our own stories and the Story? 

In this workshop we’ll focus mainly on oral storytelling. We’ll take time to collect stories from our own lives, play some fun storytelling games, and practice telling stories aloud. This will be an informal habitat of hospitable listening as well as gentle feedback, as we work together to get better at both listening to and communicating the stories that help us locate ourselves in God’s grand narrative and invite others into it as well. 

The Romantic Theology of the Oxford Inklings

Speaker: Michael Christensen

A romantic theologian does not mean one who is romantic about theology, but one who is theological about romance, one who considers the theological implications of those experiences which are called romantic.”—C.S. Lewis in Essays Presented to Charles Williams

As a literary scholar and orthodox Christian, C. S. Lewis felt that “if the real theologians were doing their job” there would be no need for lay theologians like him.  Lewis and his fellow Inklings championed the creative conjunction of Logos and Mythos (Reason and Story) to produce compelling works of theological fiction.  Mythopoetics–the language of myth, metaphor, poetry, and narrative–was their distinctive genre to point to religious experience and theological truths in aesthetic and concrete ways.

The Inklings met regularly as friends in Oxford pubs and University rooms to read aloud to each other their works in progress in the 1930-40’s. As Lewis describes these twice-weekly meetings:  “Those are the golden sessions…when our slippers are on, our feet spread out towards the blaze and our drinks at our elbow; when the whole world, and something beyond the world, opens itself to our minds as we talk…” (The Four Loves)

This short course on the fellowship and collaboration of the Inklings in producing a body of work which can be called Romantic Theology is a sampling of the program of study at Northwind Seminary in the Romantic Theology of the Oxford Inklings.

A Man and a Myth

Speaker: Kim Gilnett

Time: 3:15 – 5:00 p.m.

An introductory class on CS Lewis and the role of myth in his conversion.

Note: this session will likely take place at “The Kilns.” If so, participants will need to arrange their own transportation by city bus or taxi for these sessions. Here are directions by bus, which will take about 35 minutes from Oxford city centre. A taxi will take about 15-20 minutes.

Please note that the time of the session will be 3:15 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. to allow participants the time to get to The Kilns.

Surprised by C. S. Lewis: Two Themes (and One Woman) as Keys to Lewis’s Life and Work

Speaker: Andrew Lazo

These three sessions explore the two most prominent themes in C. S. Lewis’s life: Joy and Love, and the one woman, Joy Davidman, in whom they came together.

In Session One, “Surprised by Joy,” we’ll explore the way Lewis tried repeatedly to tell the story of Sehnsucht, the longing that characterized Lewis’s life, and which he called “Joy.” We’ll also look at how (consciously and unconsciously) Lewis seems to write his autobiography throughout his life, even as he maintained a noticeable secrecy as a very private person. This session draws on a presentation before the Oxford C. S. Lewis Society in 2021.

Session Two, “Surprised by Love” looks at a crucial turn from Joy to love in the last pages of Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Inner Life, and suggests that love rather than longing offer the best starting place to understanding Lewis. This session draws on a forthcoming chapter on Andrew’s groundbreaking work on Till We Have Faces, work that may revolutionize our understanding of Lewis; it also looks at the role Joy Davidman began to plan in Lewis’s writing, thought, life, and heart.

Session Three, “Surprised by Love for Joy” features special guest Patti Callahan, the author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis, which novelizes the curious courtship and literary love life of Lewis and Davidman. Based on Joy’s love sonnet sequence written in secret for Lewis, Andrew’s brand-new research and archival discoveries, and Patti’s deep background work and emotionally authentic writing of Joy’s life, this lively session promises clarity and insights as it explores what Lewis called the happiness in his sixties that passed him by in his twenties.

“Fairy Tales Again”? Real-Life Wisdom from the World of Narnia

Speaker: Christin Ditchfield Lazo

Lewis tells us there are some things we have to be “old enough” to truly appreciate — like the rich spiritual truth we can find in fairy tales. Come discover (or discover again) some of these treasures in The Chronicles of Narnia. Book by book, we’ll explore some of Lewis’s most profound and inspiring insights on life and love, prayer, faith, and discipleship — as revealed through the adventures of his most memorable characters. Together we’ll find the world of Narnia full of practical wisdom to help us navigate this uncertain age.

Our Disordered Anthropology

Speaker: Alan Noble

What would happen if we constructed a society starting from a false idea of what it means to be human? Why is there a mental health crisis among college students? Why am I so tired all the time? In these seminars we will consider these questions and more as we consider the disorder of the contemporary West and its roots in anthropology. The first seminar will explore the false anthropology at the core of our society: that we are our own and belong to ourselves. We will look at where this belief appears, how it forms us, and its consequences. In the second seminar we’ll look at the ways society tries and fails to help us meet the Responsibilities of Self-belonging, which are the natural consequences of radical individualism. Finally, in the third seminar we’ll see how the first question and answer in the Heidelberg Catechism gives us a way to move forward. Part cultural criticism, part theology, and part practical wisdom, these seminars are designed to help people navigate contemporary culture more faithfully.

A Rough Guide to Lewis’s “Master,” George MacDonald

Speaker: Joseph Ricke

He was one of the great fantasists of his time, writing both adult novels and children’s stories of great power. He was only surpassed, arguably, by a very good friend, who would probably never have published one of the greatest fantasies of all time had it not been for his encouragement. He was a novelist, a religious writer, a poet, and a literary scholar of great significance. He was a spiritual mentor to many – through sermons, lectures, letters, conversation, and even children’s stories. He was a household name, bridging the gap between  literary and religious audiences like no one else of his era.

No, I don’t mean C. S. Lewis; I mean George MacDonald, whom Lewis called “my master,” and credited with “baptizing his imagination” long before the “most reluctant convert” had offered his mind and will to the Great Master of all. 

In our seminar, participants will, like Lewis, be baptized into MacDonald’s imaginative world of faith, hope, love, and numinous awe (that quality of “holiness” which Lewis said he found uniquely in MacDonald’s work). Our afternoon sessions will focus mostly on MacDonald’s most imaginative works (Lewis’s gateway drug to MacDonald) –his essays on the imagination, his children’s fantasies and fairy tales, and one early novel into which he weaves his view of the healing power of the imagination. We will even “perform” MacDonald’s hilarious yet profound masterpiece, “The Light Princess,” for each other and whatever audience we can assemble.

Join me for an imaginative excursion into the mind and heart of this masterful nineteenth-century writer as well as a consideration of his influence on C. S. Lewis, his disciple.  

Cultivating Whole Lives Rooted in Christ ~ Flourishing in Fellowship

Speaker: Lancia E. Smith

What is it that we are made for? In a broken world increasingly defined by isolation and reductionism, is it even possible to become whole as individuals and communities? If it is possible, where do we start that work and how do we continue it?

Lancia E. Smith believes it is possible and that it is in fact our very telos. In this seminar she leads attendees in a deep look at three essential elements for cultivating wholeness and flourishing in it. All sessions of this seminar are interactive and engaging, incorporating a mix of teaching, visual presentation, discussion time, and prayer. Lancia’s beautiful trademark handouts are provided to use during each session, including material with resources and recommendations for continuing exploration.

Sketching Workshop

Speaker: Gail Standish Ward

Have you ever noticed that the very first words of the Scripture are “In the beginning God created…?” We are made to create beauty and truth and to find great joy in the process. During our time together in the City of Spires, we will foster that joy while honing specific skills designed to improve your drawing skills. 

Each day will include a portion of time learning through a study of linear perspective, followed by time to put this study into practice by sketching at The Oxford Botanical Gardens, Magdalen College, and the Radcliffe Square. This workshop is designed for all skill levels from total beginners to professionals. There will be a course fee announced via email, likely around £30., to cover all drawing materials and entry fees for the Oxford Botanical Garden and Magdalen College.

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