Inklings Scholars Gather to Discuss Literature, Christianity

by Kelly Fladager

The Inklings, a literary discussion group that met between the 1930s and 60s, included famous authors, such as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Owen Barfield. The group met together weekly to discuss their current works and encourage one another to continue their literary pursuits.

On February 7-9, APU faculty, staff, students, and other members of the academic community revisited those meetings during a three-day conference centered on the works and friendships of the Inklings, specifically Lewis and Tolkien.

During the conference, leading experts on the Inklings gathered to share their research and understanding of the writers. Each speaker’s passion for the subject was evident in the way they described how the Inklings’ writings shaped their life from The Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and more.

Diana Pavlac Glyer, Ph.D., APU professor of English, served as one of the keynote speakers at the conference. Glyer has published extensively on C. S. Lewis, , J. R. R. Tolkien, Joy Davidman, and the Inklings. Her latest book, The Company They Keep: Lewis and Tolkien as Writers in Community, highlights the way that creativity thrived within the small group and creative cluster formed by the Inklings.

“The conference showcased a variety of academic disciplines: theology, philosophy, literature, film, and history. Each perspective made the conversation richer,” said Glyer.

Students, faculty, staff, and visitors gathered together with the goal of understanding these prolific authors. Conference attendee Christine Bae, '08 communication studies major, shared the insight she gained into Lewis. “Through attending three different sessions, I realized that Lewis was a person who was intentional with people and the relationships he established with those around him. Each person that played a vital role in his life shaped him into the man he was,” said Bae.

Conference attendees were also privileged to hear from keynote speaker Tom Shippey, a former student of Tolkien. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien; J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, and The Road to Middle Earth. Shippey shared about the realities of following Tolkien’s footsteps as he has inherited Tolkien’s syllabus and position as professor of English at Leeds University, England.

“Tom Shippey's scholarship reminded us that philology, or the study of literary texts, really was at the heart of Tolkien's imagination,” said Glyer.

As today’s generation has once again become familiar with the writings of Lewis and Tolkien through the film productions of The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, the conference brought further insight into the authors and works of the Inklings.