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11 May 2015 @ 05:19 am
Another look  
The Inklings

Thanx to Arts & Letters Daily
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Marionweofodthignen on May 11th, 2015 10:43 am (UTC)
They should both get off my lawn
Interesting, rather sad assumptions lying behind that. The whole "We must justify people who wrote fantasy because that cannot possibly be taken seriously" is something we have surely moved beyond by now, with modernist literature almost as loathed as modernist architecture. More personally though ... one might wish that a professor of world religions would be able to rise above the assumption that there is a One Right Religion embodying the hope of mankind - at least rhetorically - and there's a deal more to be said about the permeation of Oxford by Xianity. For one thing, international readers need reminding that there was, and is, a state church in the UK. That explains much without special pleading. And except for a few 19th-century foundations that remain in a special relationship with the university, the colleges were not founded to supply educated clerics, much less to offer prayers - they were founded by students who settled around a teacher, pooled their resources to establish a "hall", and more or less forced the guy to teach them. Also, speaking of established religion, a stone's throw from that pub is a church where - when I was an undergrad - the congregation still defiantly (heretically and technically illegally) offered prayers to "Charles, King and Martyr" - and displayed an icon of him to remove any doubt about his identity. Of course, Oxford was the Royalist HQ during the Civil War - I have seen an overlaid map where the siege wall cuts through the site of my freshman room - while Cambridge was Roundhead. This has not been forgotten. Also, I don't see mention of the Oxford Movement per se - "muscular Xianity" - which was still very influential among undergrads while I was there. Whereas gowns were only worn by undergrads for university functions, such as finals. So there's a certain amount of lack of local knowledge.

It was a tragedy that Tolkien - much though I love the man's work - talked Lewis into converting to Xianity. The way he did it made it doubly so. I suppose it's too much to hope that a professor of religion would realize that in that light, Lewis' continuing love for the old gods bore examination, and was not merely a sign of his romanticism.

The Xianization of medieval studies is not entirely to be blamed on Lewis and Tolkien; Americans have contributed a lot to it, and so have other British scholars like Rosemary Woolf, but it's impoverished the field as well as driving out those like me with other interests than High Catholicism by proxy.

And if one is going to mention the "curriculum wars", one should surely mention that a few years ago the university did away with the Anglo-Saxon requirement for English students and I believe also with the second option for those students that Tolkien shepherded through, "Course II", the English degree that required no Shakespeare, no Milton, but Chaucer and also Langland and Gower (ugh, ugh, ugh) and included Old Norse, Old Saxon, and Gothic among its electives. I hope I'm wrong, but in any case in that respect the story has anything but a happy ending. (Nor is the ending of Béowulf all that happy, unless you're dotty about the bliss of passing beyond this vale of tears into a paradise of excruciating boredom and uselessness ... and even the poet recognized that Béowulf was heathen.)