Mark Shea linked an editorial in the magazine Image which asserts that the problem with Christian literature "is not the Inklings, but Inklingism".
I love the line, but I think I disagree with the article.
I do think that there is far too much attempt to immitate the Inklings, which is odd, because they themselves were quite original. One should not imitate the original by being derivative. It seems often that some of the most interesting and charismatic Christian writers of our century have developed somewhat insular and annoying followers. Dawson, Chesterton, Lewis and Tolkien all seem to be troubled with there problem. There's nothing wrong with their writings, and a great deal that is very good. But (without devoting the time to do a great deal of thinking about what exactly it is) there is often something a little "off" about their too enthusiastic followers. Indeed, for the longest time I resisted reading any Dawson, because I found myself so put off my the self-proclaimed Dawsonists that I knew.
That said, Mr. Wolfe's editorial strikes me as very much off base. I do not see much basis for his contention that "realism" as a literary style stretches back to antiquity. Nor do I think he is well on the mark in asserting that Tolkien and Lewis sought to marry Romanticism and Christianity. Rather, I would say (and it seems to me that they themselves did say) that what they were trying to do was rescue to fantasy and mythic styles and story elements from the mess that the Romantic movement had made of them.
I certainly can't see his contention that the fantasy elements in the Inkling's writing represent an attemt to remain in personal or spiritual childhood. And his analysis of the character of Susan in the Narnia books strikes me as being wrongheaded, perhaps by being too clever. Why must one necessarily assume that Susan is condemned for "entering the adult world" rather than for being shallow. Is her condemnation really that much different than that laid upon the party attendees in Elliot's The Cocktail Party? Despite the semi-childish description of Susan's fall (it is, after all, a children's book) it seems clear to me that the problem with Susan is not that she has entered the social whirl of "adult society" but rather that in doing so she had denied that anything other than the social whirl exists. The same message is sent my more "realistic" writers such as Evelyn Waugh and Anthony Powell, but because in The Last Battle it appears in a children's fantasy novel, Wolfe seems to entirely miss the message.
Learning Notes Week of January 18
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