Reading Myth and Fantasy: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien

Home/ Reading Myth and Fantasy: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSOL2CL1054

Semester and Year Offered: 3rd Semester & 2nd Year

Course Coordinator and Team: Shelmi Sankhil (Coordinator)

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: None.

Aim: This course will look at select works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Within a particular historical configuration of the early and mid twentieth century Europe, the course will explore genre-related issues and the decision of Lewis and Tolkien to write their major fictional works in high/epic fantasy.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Module 1: The Fantastic: Three essential texts will be read in this module to provide the basic frame for the following two modules. The objective in this module, via these texts, is to critically engage with the idea of myth and the development of the fantasy genre since the 19th century. The module will also engage with the popular charge of fantasy as mere escapism.

Maint texts:

  • J.R.R. Tolkien. “Mythopoeia”.
  • C.S Lewis. “On Myth” and “The Meanings of Fantasy” (Chapters 5 and 6) From An Experiment in Criticism. Cambridge UP, 1961.
  • George MacDonald.“The Fantastic Imagination”. fantastic_imagination.html
  • G.K. Chesterton. “The Ethics of Elfland” in Orthodoxy, 1908 (e-copy easily available online)

Supplementary reading:

  • Joseph Campbell. Myths to Live By: How We Recreate Ancient Legends in Our Daily Lives to Release Human Potential. Bantam Books, 1988 (1973)
  • Kath Filmer (ed). The Victorian Fantasists. The Macmillan Press, 1991 Kath Filmer (ed). Twentieth-Century Fantasists. The Macmillan Press, 1992

Module 2: One Ring: The module contains two novels by Tolkien. The broad objective of this module is to thematically read, genre included, the text(s) and tease out the philosophical and literary aspects of the work.

Main texts:

  • J.R.R Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005 (1954)
  • —————. The Silmarillion. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2002 (1937)

Supplementary reading:

  • Chance, Jane, ed. Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: A Reader. University Press of Kentucky, 2004. Hill-Spur, Matthew: “Tolkien’s War: The History Behind The Lord of the Rings”: https:// tolkiens-war-the-history-behind-the-lord-of-the- rings/.
  • Katana, Hikari: “Lord Tolkien’s Mythic History: How Middle Earth Launched the Fantasy Genre”: https:// history-how-middle- earth-launched-the-fantasy-genre/
  • Murray, Jef: “On Fairy Tales: A Rhapsody of Themes from G.K. Chesterton and J.R.R. Tolkien”: https:// rhapsody-of-themes- from-g-k-chesterton-and-j-r-r-tolkien/
  • Pearce, Joseph. Tolkien: Man and Myth. Harper Collins Publishers, 1998.
  • Selections from Richard Sturch. Four Christian Fantasists: A Study of the Fantastic Writings of George MacDonald, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Walking Tree Publishers, 2001

Module 3: Deep Magic: This module contains two novels by Lewis. This module will engage with, among other things, Lewis’ radical conception of myth in relation to the question of what is real and truth, and how he deploys the genre to communicate his philosophy about reality.

Main texts:

  • C.S Lewis. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold. Mariner Books, 2012 (1956)
  • ————-. Perelandra, Harper Collins, 2011 (1943)

Supplementary reading:

  • Butts, Dennis. "The Abolition of Man?: Horror in the Science Fiction of C.S. Lewis". In Clive Bloom (ed), Creepers: British Horror and Fantasy in the Twentieth Century. London and Boulder CO: Pluto Press, pp. 111– 19.
  • Downing, David C. Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of CS Lewis's Ransom Trilogy. University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.
  • Hooper, Walter. C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide. HarperCollins, 1996
  • Myers, Doris T. Bareface: A Guide to C.S. Lewis Last Novel. University of Missouri Press, 2004 Sammons, Martha C. A Guide Through CS Lewis' Space Trilogy. Westchester, IL: Cornerstone Books, 1980.
  • Sturch, Richard. Four Christian Fantasists: A Study of the Fantastic Writings of George MacDonald, Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. Walking Tree Publishers, 2001.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • 10% for review; 40% for mid-term; 40% for term paper.