The finalists for the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award in Inklings Studies 2009
Gavin Ashenden, Charles Williams: Alchemy and Imagination (Kent State, 2008)
Gavin Ashenden is a lecturer on the English faculty at the University of Sussex, England, where he is also the university chaplain, lecturer in the Psychology of Religion, examining Chaplain to the bishop of Chichester, diocesan Advisor on New Age Religions and member of the General Synod of the Church of England.
Charles Williams was a close friend of T. S. Eliot, deeply admired by C. S. Lewis, inspirational for W. H. Auden in his journey to faith, and a literary sparring partner for J. R. R. Tolkien. Yet, half a century after his death, much of Charles Williams' life and work remains an enigma. The questions that arose from his immersion in Rosicrucian and hermetic culture and ideology - central to understanding Williams's thought and art - remain provocatively unexplored. For a decade of his early adulthood, Williams was a member of the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, a form of neo-Rosicrucianism. There is widespread confusion about its nature, which is to be expected given that this was a semisecret society. Though Williams left his formal association with it behind, it enriched and informed his imaginative world with a hermetic myth that expressed itself in an underlying ideology and metaphysics. In "Charles Williams: Alchemy and Integration", Gavin Ashenden explores both the history behind the myths and metaphysics Williams was to make his own and the hermetic culture that influenced him. He examines and interprets its expressions in Williams' novels, poetry, and the development of his ideas and relates these elements to Williams' unpublished letters to his platonic lover, Celia, written toward the end of his life. Since one of the foremost ideas in Williams's work is the interdependence or coinherence of both our humanity and the creation, understanding the extent to which he lived and achieved this in his own life is important. Williams's private correspondence with Celia is of particular interest both for its own sake, since it was previously unknown, and for the insight it offers into his personality and muse.
Veryln Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson, eds. Tolkien on fairy-stories: Expanded Edition, with Commentary and Notes (HarperCollins, 2008)
Verlyn Flieger and Douglas A. Anderson are both well-known Tolkien scholars, co-founders (with Michael Drout) of Tolkien Studies.
HERE is an interview with the authors about Tolkien On fairy-stories.
Verlyn Flieger is Professor of English at the University of Maryland, where she teaches courses in Tolkien, Medieval Literature, and Comparative Mythology. She has published three books on Tolkien— Splintered Light: Logos and Language in tolkien's World, A Question of Time: J.R.R. tolkien's Road to "Faerie", and Interrupted Music: Tolkien and the Making of a Mythology, as well editing the extended edition of tolkien's last short story, Smith of Wootton MajorSmith of Wootton Major. She is a co-editor with Carl Hostetter of tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth, and with Douglas A. Anderson and Michael Drout of the yearly journal Tolkien Studies.
Anderson's most recent books include The Annotated Hobbit (HarperCollins UK, 2003) and the anthology Tales Before Tolkien: The Roots of Modern Fantasy(ballantine
US, 2003; mass market edition 2005).
Put these two top class Tolkien scholars together and you can expect something wonderful to happen. In this case I'm glad to announce the cooperation resulted into a book called 'Tolkien on fairy-stories', a new expanded edition of Tolkien’s most famous, and most important essay 'On fairy-stories', which defined his conception of fantasy as a literary form, and which led to the writing of The Lord of the Rings. Accompanied by a critical study of the history and writing of the text.
John Rateliff, The History of the Hobbit, Part One: Mr. Baggins; Part Two: Return to bag-end (Houghton Mifflin, 2007)
John Rateliff is a well known J.R.R. Tolkien scholar who has most recently published The History of The Hobbit (2007). He was also one of the authors of The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game (2002). He is a writer, editor, and independent scholar. For many years, he worked with the Tolkien manuscripts at Marquette University and has written extensively on Tolkien and the Inklings. He lives in Seattle with his family.
HERE is an interview with the author of The History of the Hobbit.
This two volumed book presents for the first time the complete unpublished text of the original manuscript of J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Hobbit, his draft of the revision of the Gollum encounter for the second edition, and the fragment of what, if he'd completed it, would have been the third edition of 1960. The book is a lively and informative account of how the Hobbit came to be written and published. Also featured are extensive annotations and commentaries on the date of composition, how Tolkien’s professional and early mythological writings influenced the story, the imaginary geography he created, and how he came to revise the book in the years after publication to accommodate events in The Lord of the Rings. For those who missed my previous article on this two-volume book, you can find it here. Info on the three volume celebration edition of the Hobbit can be found here.
Michael Ward, Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis (Oxford, 2008)
Michael Ward, a leading expert on the works of C.S. Lewis, is a writer and speaker. An Anglican clergyman, he served as Chaplain of Peterhouse in the University of Cambridge from 2004 to 2007. Between 1996 and 1999 he was Warden of The Kilns, Lewis's Oxford home. He studied English at Oxford, Theology at Cambridge; he has a PhD from St Andrews. Dr Ward's chief claim to fame, however, is that he handed a pair of X-ray spectacles to James Bond in the movie The World Is Not Enough.
For over half a century, scholars have laboured to show that C. S. Lewis's famed but apparently disorganised Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying symbolic coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser's Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the structure of Narnia's symbolism has remained a mystery.
Michael Ward has finally solved the enigma. In Planet Narnia he demonstrates that medieval cosmology, a subject which fascinated Lewis throughout his life, provides the imaginative key to the seven novels. Drawing on the whole range of Lewis's writings (including previously unpublished drafts of the Chronicles), Ward reveals how the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets - - Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn - - planets which Lewis described as "spiritual symbols of permanent value" and "especially worthwhile in our own generation". Using these seven symbols, Lewis secretly constructed the Chronicles so that in each book the plot-line, the ornamental details, and, most important, the portrayal of the Christ-figure of Aslan, all serve to communicate the governing planetary personality. The cosmological theme of each Chronicle is what Lewis called 'the kappa element in romance', the atmospheric essence of a story, everywhere present but nowhere explicit. The reader inhabits this atmosphere and thus imaginatively gains connaitre knowledge of the spiritual character which the tale was created to embody.
Planet Narnia is a ground-breaking study that will provoke a major revaluation not only of the Chronicles, but of Lewis's whole literary and theological outlook. Ward uncovers a much subtler writer and thinker than has previously been recognized, whose central interests were hiddenness, immanence, and knowledge by acquaintance.
Elizabeth A. Whittingham, The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology: A Study of the History of Middle-earth (McFarland, 2008)
Elizabeth A. Whittingham teaches in the English department at SUNY College at Brockport in Brockport, New York.
The History of Middle-earth traces the evolution of J.R.R. tolkien's literary world, stories, and characters from their earliest written forms to the final revisions Tolkien penned shortly before his death in 1973. Published posthumously by tolkien's son Christopher, the extensively detailed 12-volume work allows readers to follow the development of the texts that eventually became tolkien's immensely popular The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, The Silmarillion, and Unfinished Tales.
This work provides a thorough study of tolkien's life and influences through an analysis of The History of Middle-earth. The work begins with a brief biography and an analysis of the major influences in tolkien's life. Following chapters deal with elements common to tolkien's popular works, including the cosmogony, theogony, cosmology, metaphysics, and eschatology of Middle-earth. The study also reviews some of the myths with which Tolkien was most familiar--Greek, Roman, Finnish, and Norse--and reveals the often overlapping relationship between mythology, biblical stories, and tolkien's popular works.
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