Thursday, March 31, 2011

Conference schedule for CSLIS 14

It’s that time of year again, folks. If you live in the south-central United States, anywhere within a reasonable driving distance of Tulsa, Oklahoma, give some thought to coming out for the C.S. Lewis and Inklings Society’s 14th Annual Conference, this weekend (April 1–2, 2011) at Oral Roberts University. I know this is a last-minute post, but I’ve mentioned it here enough times that you have no excuse! :)

I just got a copy of the conference schedule last night, so I can give you some idea of what you’ll be in for — or what you’ll be missing if you can’t make it. As you can see, they always pack a lot into two days! As you can also see, I am continuing my research on Tolkien’s hapax legomena — a topic that holds great fascination for me. A full conference report will follow sometime next week. (Follow this link for my report on last year’s event.)

Friday, April 1

8:30–10:15 (Plenary Session)
“Illuminating Ungit: Unveiling the Deep Mysteries of Love in C.S. Lewis’s Last Novel, Part 1”, Andrew Lazo


Session I-A: The Creators of Middle-earth: God and the Subcreators
  • “‘Derived from Reality’: J.R.R. Tolkien as the God of Middle-earth”, Jonathan Hall
  • “The God Who Hides: Isaiah, Mark, Pascal, Tolkien”, Dr. Normal Styers
  • “‘A Place for Their Habitation’: Space and Character in Middle-earth”, Randall Compton
Session I-B: Angels and Paradise: A Lewisian Interpretation
  • “‘Mighty Ones Who Do His Bidding:’ Lewis’s Mythic and Reasonable Depiction of Angels”, Dr. Janice Brown
  • “Paradise Retold: Lewis’s Reimagining of Genesis and Milton”, Dr. Benita Muth
  • “Satan Redux: C.S. Lewis’s (Christian) Reader Response in Preface to Paradise Lost”, Dr. William Epperson
Session I-C: Lewis and Tolkien and the Power of Their Words
  • “Facts and Meanings: From Word to Myth”, David Rozema
  • “C.S. Lewis: Christian Humanist and Writer”, Peter Hoheisel
  • “Sharing the Inkwell: Comparing Tolkien’s and Lewis’s Writing Styles”, Dr. Linda Gray

Session II-A: C. S. Lewis and Science: Pain, Physics, and the Tao
  • “Science and the Tao: Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells and the Remaking of Man”, Dr. Kenneth Weed and Justin Nichol
  • “Physics and Out of the Silent Planet”, Dr. Andrew Lang and Joe Ninowski
  • The Problem of Pain and the Relational Theory of Design: Can Suffering Result in Positive Affordances?”, Dr. Dominic Halsmer and Kyle Hansen
Session II-B: Deception and Usurpation in That Hideous Strength
  • “Usurpers of the Almighty: A Perspective on That Hideous Strength”, John Fulton
  • “Utter Deception in N.I.C.E.: C.S. Lewis’ Use of Media in That Hideous Strength”, John Weiand
  • “From Shortcomings to Seer: Mark Studdock in That Hideous Strength”, Christina Jumper
Session II-C : Themes and Techniques in George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, and Charles Williams
  • “The Vicar’s Declaration of Religious Independence in George MacDonald’s Annals of a Quiet Neighborhood”, Dr. Larry Fink
  • “Man Found Alive With Two Legs: Chesterton’s Defamiliarizing Method”, J. Cameron Moore
  • “‘On Shadows of Ecstasy’ as Autobiography”, Dr. Joe Christopher

Session III-A: Science, Ethics, and Religion Through the Lens of Lewis
  • “Lewis and Religious Philosophy: An Examination of C.S. Lewis in Light of Contemporary Thought”, Dave Bukenhofer
  • “C.S. Lewis: Christian Ethicist in a Relativistic Age”, Dr. Martin Batts
  • “Presupposition and Scientific Methodology: Evolution and Intelligent Design in Light of Lewis’s View of Models”, Dr. Mark R. Hall
Session III-B: King Arthur and the Mythic Hero in the Fiction of Lewis and Tolkien
  • “Resurrecting Logres: Arthurian Elements in C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength”, Jana Swartwood
  • “Arthuriana in Narnia”, Kazia Estrada
  • “Aaragorn, Echoes of a Messianic King: Tolkien’s Defamiliarization of the Mythic Hero”, Bryce Merkl
Session III-C : The Face of the Gods and the Devil in Lewis and Tolkien
  • “Venus and Mars: Female and Masculine Traits in the Planets Malacandra and Perelandra”, Sarah Thompson
  • “Two Faces”, Steve McKinney
  • “The Devil Made Me Do It: Demonic Possession in the Inklings’s Works”, B.J. Thome
Conference Banquet
Welcome and Invocation, Entertainment, Introduction of the CSLIS Executive Board Members, Presentation of the CSLIS 2011 Writing Competition Awards, etc.

Keynote Speech
“Finding God in The Lord of the Rings”, Kurt Bruner

Saturday, April 1

8:45–10:15 (Plenary Session)
“Illuminating Ungit: Unveiling the Deep Mysteries of Love in C.S. Lewis’s Last Novel, Part 2”, Andrew Lazo


Session IV-A: Angels and Paradise: A Lewisian Interpretation
  • “Narnia as Bestiary and the Rational Necessity of The Magician’s Nephew”, Jim Stockton
  • “Philosophy and Fairy Stories: Lewis’s Narnia as Philosophical Ontology”, Michael Muth
  • “The Country Inside the Cupboard: Reason, Myth, and the Leap Through the Wardrobe Door”, Dr. William Thompson
Session IV-B: God and the Self in the Space Trilogy and Middle-earth
  • “Eldila and Valar: Theology on Malacandra and Middle-earth”, Hannah Erwin
  • “‘Lewis, You Are Inimitable!’: Self-reference in Lewis and Tolkien’s Tales of Space or Time Travel”, Dr. Jonathan Himes
  • “The Third One at St. Anne’s: Pneumatological Typology in ‘The Descent of the Gods’”, Chuck Fowler
Session IV-C: Subjectivism in That Hideous Strength: Mark and Jane Studdock as Victims and Victors
  • “The Freedom of Tradition: Lewis’ Portrayal of Jane Studdock in That Hideous Strength”, Ariel Arguelles
  • “The Psychology Behind That Hideous Strength: The Mental and Emotional Struggle of Mark and Jane Studdock”, Amaris Woolard
  • “Feelings, Motives, Decisions and their Effect on Morality: Subjectivism’s Influence as Revealed in That Hideous Strength”, Teresa Jaquith
Session IV-D: Tolkien and the War
  • “From Trenches to Towers: The Echoes of World War I in Middle Earth”, David Apy
  • “Creations of War: Tolkien’s Depiction of Character in The Lord of the Rings”, Billy Burke
  • “The Hen that Laid the Eggs: Tolkien and the Officers Training Corps”, Janet Brennan Croft
1:00–2:30 (Plenary Session)
“Finding God in the Land of Narnia”, Kurt Bruner


Session V-A: Eucatastrophe and a Desire for Joy and the Good in Lewis, Tolkien, Williams, and Chesterton
  • “Lewis and Tolkien: Masters of Art With a Longing for Joy”, Elisabeth Knier
  • “Joy and Eucatastrophe: An Aspect of Myth”, Katelyn Yeary
  • “Let Us Draw the Line: Comparing the Nature of Good and Evil in the Works of Williams, Tolkien, and Chesterton”, Melanie Westpetal
Session V-B: Sayers and Tolkien as Creators and Wordsmiths
  • “Dorothy Sayer’s Triune of the Creative Mind and C.S. Lewis’s Ideas on Creativity With Some Illustrations from The Chronicles of Narnia”, Salwa Khoddam
  • “Tolkien’s Niggle: Answering Sayers’ Question: ‘Why Work?’”, Dr. Kay Meyers
  • “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hapax Legomena: The Devil in the Word-hoard”, Jason Fisher
Session V-C The Imagination as Key to the Themes of Lewis and Tolkien
  • “The Broad and the Narrow Paths of Imagination: Narnia and Middle-earth”, Lindsey Presnell
  • “Glimpses of Glory: The Source of Imagination in the Writings of C.S. Lewis”, Jasmine Wilder-Johnson
  • “Tolkien Devotionals: Christian Symbolism and Themes Within The Lord of the Rings”, Lauren Percival
“Further Up and Further In: Tackling Today’s Tough Questions with Lewis and Tolkien” (Panel Discussion), Kurt Bruner and Andrew Lazo

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Silent Letters in English

English is reputed to be among the most difficult second languages to acquire, and although my position is a biased one, I’m sure it’s true. It’s not so much because of the grammar, which is actually pretty simple — though it does have quite a profusion of irregular forms. I think the main obstacle is the spelling and pronunciation, which is far from regular. Just consider the inconsistencies in “the tough coughs as he ploughs the dough” (courtesy of Dr. Seuss), in which the same cluster of letters is pronounced in four different ways!

The main reason for these inconsistencies is that English is an amalgam of so many other linguistic influences, ranging across the whole Indo-European spectrum, with a staggering number of foreign borrowings from virtually every language family on Earth. If America is the so-called melting pot, then the English language is its fondue fork, dipping into the pot and drawing out whatever words it finds useful, sometimes modifying their spelling, sometimes their pronunciation, sometimes neither, and sometimes both! No wonder ESL students have difficulty.

English is particularly famous for its silent letters. Many languages have some of these. French is also notorious for them, but in French, they tend to be much more regular; in English, they are anything but! As a fun exercise, I’ve tried to think up words in which each of the twenty-six letters of the English alphabet is silent. There are only one or two letters for which I couldn’t find an example (or possibly as many as five, depending on how strict you are). That’s pretty good, eh? (Or pretty bad, if you are learning the language.) In any case, more than twenty of the letters in the English alphabet can be silent, which is pretty incredible whther you deem it good or bad.

Wherever I could, I’ve also tried to show the same letter silent in more than one position in a word (i.e., initially, medially, and/or terminally). Some of these are words of foreign borrowing, though I’ve tried to limit them. Such borrowings are inevitable with English, but feel free to disqualify them if you prefer a stricter game. Also, comments on the silent letters in other languages are welcome!

A: Cocoa, Bread, Practically [and innumerable adverbs of the same sort]

B: Debt, subtle, doubt, climb, plumb, thumb, lamb, subpoena

C: Indict, muscle, chthonic, victual, czar, science, yacht, scissors

D: Handkerchief, bundt, Wednesday, djinn

E: Every, evening, vegetable, walked, talked [I don’t count the terminal e in words like fate, because it governs the pronunciation of the earlier vowel.]

F: Halfpenny

G: Phlegm, gnu, gnome, eight, align, foreign, diaphragm

H: Honest, hour, eight, exhibit

I: Business, parliament

J: Marijuana

K: Knee, knife, knot

L: Half, salmon, calf, yolk, talk, would

M: Mnemonic

N: Autumn, damn, hymn, column

O: Subpoena, Leopard, Country

P: Corps, coup, cupboard, pneumonia, ptomaine, pterodactyl, pseudo, psychic, psalm, receipt

Q: Lacquer, racquet [not the best examples; anyone have anything better?]

R: February [by some], forecastle [I don’t count non-rhotic accents, in which r is routinely silent, since this is not my own accent. Can anyone think of any others?]

S: Island, corps, aisle, debris, hors d’oeuvre, viscount, demesne

T: Ballet, tsunami [by some], thistle, rapport, ricochet, listen, castle, soften, whistle

U: buoy [by some], biscuit, victual [I disqualify u when following g and q; in those cases, it governs the pronunciation of the consonant.]

V: — [anyone?]

W: Write, wrist, answer, sword, two, whole, who

X: Faux, Sioux

Y: Key [maybe; what do you think?]

Z: Rendezvous, laissez-faire, chez [exclusively French; can anyone think of something else?]

And for even more fun, there are some words which, through the continued erosion of their pronunciation, now boast multiple silent letters in English. Examples: corps, boatswain, blancmange, forecastle — or is it actually forecastle?! Can anyone think of a word with three or more silent letters in it?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lewis’s Lost Aeneid [Updated]

“Hardly any lawful price would seem to me too high for what I have gained by being made to learn Latin and Greek.”
— C.S. Lewis [1]

The remarkable news of the publication of Lewis’s partial translation of Virgil’s Aeneid is just beginning to spread across the internet. I learned of it myself via Facebook only this morning. A friend had posted a link to an article published in today’s Independent. This in turn led me to Amazon, where you can preorder C.S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid: Arms and the Exile for a really good price right now (do it!). And from there to the Yale University Press, which describes the book thus:

C.S. Lewis (1898–1963) is best remembered as a literary critic, essayist, theologian, and novelist, and his famed tales The Chronicles of Narnia and The Screwtape Letters have been read by millions. Now, [editor] A.T. Reyes reveals a different side of this diverse man of letters: translator.

Reyes introduces the surviving fragments of Lewis’s translation of Virgil’s epic poem, which were rescued from a bonfire. They are presented in parallel with the Latin text, and are accompanied by synopses of missing sections, and an informative glossary, making them accessible to the general reader. Writes Lewis in A Preface to Paradise Lost, “Virgil uses something more subtle than mere length of time…. It is this which gives the reader of the Aeneid the sense of having lived through so much. No man who has read it with full perception remains an adolescent.” Lewis’s admiration for the Aeneid, written in the 1st century BC and unfolding the adventures of Aeneas, a Trojan who traveled to Italy and became the ancestor of the Romans, is evident in his remarkably lyrical translation.

C.S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid is part detective story, as Reyes recounts the dramatic rescue of the fragments and his efforts to collect and organize them, and part illuminating look at a lesser-known and intriguing aspect of Lewis’s work.
A few additional details are known now (and I will share anything else I learn as soon as I know it): the ISBN is 978-0300167177, the book is 184 pp., and the list price is $27.50 ($17.06 on Amazon right now). You can see the cover design above.

Scholars have been aware of this translation for years. Tolkien alluded to it in a couple of letters to his son, Christopher, in the 1940s. In one of these, not published in Tolkien’s collected letters, but quoted in a footnote to letter #81, Tolkien referred Lewis’s “new translation in rhymed alexandrines of the Aeneid”. It was therefore apparently new (or newish) in the Fall of 1943 — or at least new to the Inklings. Editor Andy Reyes tells us that Lewis first began work on the translation a decade earlier, in 1935, but returned to it periodically over the ensuing twenty-five years or so. I am not going to troll through Lewis’s letters searching for references to this translation in order to attempt to say more — surely this will be a big part of Reyes’s introduction, and I look forward as much as any of you to learning more.

The appearance of this translation is a most welcome addition to Lewis’s published works. I can only hope it opens the door a little wider to let Tolkien’s unpublished Beowulf translations come through in the near future as well. More details to come!

I have heard back from editor A.T. Reyes, who kindly provided a few additional details:
The translation is not complete, with the largest selections coming from books 1 (which is complete), 2, and 6. There are also fragments from books 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 12. The book itself consists of: a foreword by Walter Hooper; a preface by David Ross, formerly Professor of Latin at the University of Michigan and one of the great experts on Virgil; an introduction by me; the transcription of Lewis’s translation, together with a parallel Latin text; and then assorted appendices with a final index of classical names and allusions.

[1] Lewis, C.S. Rehabilitations and Other Essays. London: Oxford University Press, 1939, p. 64.