By Morgan Smith, Assistant Faith Editor
Many OBU students are familiar with the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, but what some students may not know is the two were a part of a literary group known as the Oxford Inklings.
The Oxford Inklings would gather together to share and discuss each other’s writings.
Lewis and Tolkien became not only the groups best-known members, but are remembered for writing science fiction and fantasy stories with Christian themes.
Years after the original Inklings’ meetings, their literary tradition continues with other groups under the same name.
OBU has its own Inklings group, which was started by Dr. Lindsey Panxhi, an assistant professor of English.
Sat., April 14, Dr. Panxhi, along with OBU students and Inklings members Andrew
Wright and Chloe Harrison, will attend a forum hosted by the OKC Inklings society to share and discuss their own work.
The OKC Inklings forum will feature creative work inspired by the writings of the original Inklings as well as scholarly work on fantasy and science fiction works that follow the Inklings tradition.
Wright, Harrison and Panxhi were all selected to share their work with the forum.
Both Wright and Harrison said they first came to know the Inklings work by reading Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia when they were younger and have continued to discover and love more of their work since then.
“Through high school and college especially, I’ve just fallen so much in love with so much that he [Lewis] wrote – not just the beautiful world of Narnia, but his ‘Mere Christianity,’ which I’ve read two or three times,” Wright said.
“It’s an absolutely amazing, foundational text in many ways of what it is to be a Christian, and his other stuff, like the Space Trilogy, is just mind-bendingly good.”
Wright, a senior creative writing major and theater minor, said he will present an excerpt from a fantasy novel he is writing.
“Still mourning the disappearance of her sister, a young college student finds herself tumbling into a beautiful and terrifying world of magic,” Wright said. “I am reading chapter one and most of chapter three.”
Harrison, a junior English major with a minor in professional editing, said she will present a scholarly paper she wrote for one of her classes, titled “Inescapable Suffering, the Dangers of the Other World in Sir Orfeo.”
“Basically, I’m looking at why is there still suffering in magical worlds, and what can we gain from that,” she said. “The reason I’m presenting it at the Inklings forum is because one of the articles I use is ‘On Fairy Writing,’ by Tolkien himself.”
The forum will also feature keynote speaker Joyce Coleman and visiting professors such as John Granger, a scholar who focuses on Harry Potter as a literary text.
Wright and Harrison said one of the reasons the Inklings are still emulated is because of their contributions to both science fiction and fantasy literature, as well as apologetic writing.
“In the world of speculative to fantasy, more than anyone else, they built it as a genre,” Wright said.
“Like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, any other writer that does a fantasy where they’re in their own world with their own kingdom and whatnot, it’s inescapable; it’s not just the influence that’s far reaching, it’s the foundation on which everything else is built.”
Harrison said the Inklings not only created the modern fantasy genre, but defended it as a literary form.
“On top of that, they’re just really good stories,” she said. “Everybody loves reading Lewis and Tolkien.”
Lewis’ and Tolkien’s work is also still beloved in the Christian community, and Lewis is just as well known for his apologetic writings as his fantasy and science fiction writings.
“Lewis is a huge part of modern apologetics,” Wright said. “When Dr. Travers, then
Dr. Panxhi afterwards, taught the C.S. Lewis class a year ago, half the class was people coming over from the theology department because of how respected Lewis is in that field even though he wrote stories of magic.”
Harrison said she thinks it was the way the Inklings chose to approach Christianity in their writings that made them so beloved.
“It’s not obvious, though sometimes it is in Narnia, but I think it’s how they aren’t just writing to try to tell a moral tale,” she said.
“They’re trying to create rich worlds and stories that people will come to again and again.”
Wright said that despite the lack of overtness in their writing, readers can still catch the message in Lewis’ and Tolkien’s writing.
“You can feel the truth through the worlds they built,” he said. “We tell our truth, and the world sees Christ through that.”