Monday, July 19, 2010

Mythcon 41 internet roundup

For those of you who subscribe to Mythprint, I am working on a special issue consisting of Mythcon conference reports (and, if there’s room, a few photos). It’s not too late to join the Mythopoeic Society, which includes a subscription to Mythprint. In the meantime, here’s a roundup of some other thoughts, gathered from around the Web.


  1. What's your impression of interest in Tolkien, Lewis, Williams et al. among the under-30s?

    Mine is that relatively few under-30s are seriously interested in reading the books, however much they might enjoy movies, rpgs, and so on, and that attendance at events relating to these authors is largely middle-aged and elderly. I'm going by things such as the photos in issues of the NY CSL Society.

    I hope my impression is wrong.

  2. I think it depends a great deal on the organization. The C.S. Lewis and Inklings Society (based here in the south-central part of the country) places a great emphasis on cultivating the interest of graduate and even undergraduate students. At their annual conference in the spring, I usually see a great mix of younger and older people. Peruse these photos, and you’ll see what I mean.

    The Mythopoeic Society had been trending older, but we have recently seen an influx of younger people. At Mythcon earlier this month, we had a number of graduate students and early professionals of the “under 30” variety, and we even had an undergraduate student from Chicago (perhaps 21 years old?). Even more surprising than that, he was a big Charles Williams fan! Garrett, if you’re reading, how old are you? :)

  3. Thanks. That is somewhat encouraging.

    I hope the younger men and women who venture into such circles don't find themselves put off by so many relatively older people (I turn 55 this week) who grew up on JRRT and CSL and, without meaning to come across as know-it-alls, could come across as know-it-alls. I'm tempted to say that I don't suppose there's been a day in the past 35 years or more that I haven't thought of one or other of the Inklings in some way; but it would be good to encounter people who began reading them recently.

    I do think that much of Lewis's writing needs discrete annotation by now.

  4. I do think that much of Lewis’s writing needs discrete annotation by now.

    Yes, true! This reminded me of the opening to an essay by Tom Shippey. Speaking of Lewis’s introductory chapter to English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama, he seems to say much the same thing:

    “The first few pages refer casually to Pico della Mirandola (1463–94), Marsilio Ficino (1433–99), Paracelsus [Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim] (1493–1541), [Heinrich Cornelius] Agrippa [von Nettesheim] (1486–1535), names barely known (if at all) to most students of English literature. A little later Lewis switches casually from the De Rerum Natura of [Bernardinus] Telesius (1509–88) to the De Rerum Sensu et Magia of [Tommaso] Campanella (1568–1639), giving no introduction to either name. Six pages later he mentions that ‘pleasing little tract De Nymphis’; from what Lewis says I would be interested to read it, but he gives no reference. Lewis must have known what effect such casual assumptions of a generally non-existent background knowledge would produce. Why did he do it?”

    Why indeed! The essay I’m quoting is well worth reading, if you haven’t. “New Learning and New Ignorance: Magia, Goeteia, and the Inklings”, in Myth and Magic: Art according to the Inklings (Walking Tree, 2007).

  5. Lewis must have thought that most of the people consulting his OHEL book would be beneficiaries of an Oxbridge education such as existed in his time. Of course Oxford and Cambridge don't provide that education now, let alone anyone else. But I was thinking of allusions in his popular writings to terms, persons, events that most readers would've understood at the time. For example, somewhere he uses the abbreviation "HCF." It is apparently a mathematical term. But I must have skipped class that day -- Seriously, I don't remember seeing that anywhere else but in Lewis. Just as Ignatius Press has published an edition of Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday (1907) with extensive annotations by Martin Gardner, so I hope it won't be too long before Lewis's publishers add discreet [!] notes to his popular books... even if only as tack-ons at the back of the book.

  6. I think it’s a great idea. Someone should definitely do annotated editions of some of Lewis’s works. We have these for Tolkien’s two major novels, so why not Lewis?

    By the way, HCF is the “highest common factor” of two numbers. See also Euclidean algorithm. :)