School of the Arts, Media + Culture SAMC Interdisciplinary

Abstracts + Bios

Friday, September 30 | 9:00-10:50am


PERSONAL CONNECTIONS | Room 210 (Instrumental Hall)


The Art of Autobiography: C.S. Lewis and Bede Griffiths: Proto-Inklings 
Ron Dart

We (Griffiths and Lewis) discovered Christianity together,
largely through our common interest in English literature.

Letter by Bede Griffiths to The Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal
April 21, 1990

The art of autobiography creates the possibility of a more intimate relationship between writer and reader.  Autobiography, in short, is an art form in which the writer, like a painter, selectively and judiciously brushstrokes the colours of their life on the canvass of the written page but does so in way that implicitly elicits a response by the reader at both the imaginative and rational levels. C.S. Lewis and Bede Griffiths were chief companions on the faith journey and their primary autobiographies, Surprised by Joy and A Golden String,are very much literary works of art at the highest and most confessional of levels. They came to Christianity, as Griffiths noted in his letter to The Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal “through our common interest in English literature”.

There is, though, the backstory to the faith journey of Lewis and Griffiths. Both men came to faith through the community of others with literary interests. Lewis, Barfield and Griffiths often did moonlight walks in the late 1920s- early 1930s at Oxford (Lewis’ letters to Greeves in 1929-1930 describe these meditative hikes). There is a sense in which the friendship between Greeves, Lewis, Griffiths and Barfield anticipated the Inklings and prepared the way for such an artistic community decades before ecumenism emerged.        

This presentation will discuss how and why the autobiographies of Lewis and Griffiths (published about the same time) were shaped and formed by literary communities that prepared the way for the Inklings.  We will also discuss why the autobiographies of Lewis and Griffiths draw the curious and attentive reader into their journeys and, by doing so, evoke within the reader a longing and hunger to participate in such a journey. In short, the proto-Inklings and friendship of Lewis-Griffiths-Greeves-Barfield are part of a historic tale not yet fully told and this lecture will highlight why such literary artists via their autobiographies continue to draw readers into their inviting fold. 

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Ron Dart has taught in the Department of Political Science/Philosophy/Religious Studies at University of the Fraser Valley since 1990---he was on staff with Amnesty International in the 1980s. Ron has published almost 35 books, including articles in The Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal, Pilgrimmage (Toronto C.S. Lewis Society), Crux and The Merton Journal on C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, George Grant and Thomas Merton. Ron has also recently published a book on C.S. Lewis and Bede Griffiths.      

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The Child and the Giant by Owen Barfield

Reading by Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson

The Child and the Giant was written by Owen Barfield in 1930 while teaching at Steiner school, but was not published until 1988 in Child and Man: Education as an Art. The story concerns an orphan boy who lives with a Giant in the forest; after a tragedy, the child must grow up and learn from his experience.

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Owen Barfield: Friend and Teacher

Laurel Gasque

Both less, but also more than an academic paper, this presentation is a sharing of a personal and most unexpected friendship with Owen Barfield (1898 – 1997) that began in 1973 and lasted until his death in December 1997, 11 months short of his 100th birthday.

George Tennyson called Barfield the ‘first and last Inkling’ as he was born two weeks before C.S. Lewis and died more than three decades after him. He is probably the least known Inkling and remains often a mystery to fans of the Inklings or even unknown to them. 

Through UBC English Professor, Craig Miller, (S.T. Coleridge scholar), who knew Barfield personally, I was urged to meet Barfield because I valued Coleridge and had read so much of Barfield at that point that I had a sense of appreciation of their convergence, particularly their thinking about the imagination.

I did not come to Barfield as a scholar or an ‘Inklings Scholar’, but as a person who was seeking wisdom in a worrisome world from a sagacious man who could help me with many questions and concerns that were spiritual/religious, social and personal.  Barfield was not the kindly pastoral type, but he imparted to me honest care that I shall be eternally grateful for. I shall share that journey of learning and its profound impact on me as a person and as an art historian.

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Laurel Gasque, BA (UCLA), MEd (Eastern University) teaches art history at Trinity Western University as well as arts and theology at Regent College, Vancouver, BC, where she pioneered the college’s Art Program. She is Associate Editor of ArtWay (www.artway.eu), an international, in-depth website for congregations and individuals linking the visual arts and faith. She is the author of Art and the Christian Mind: The Life and Work of H.R. Rookmaaker (Crossway, 2005) and numerous essays and articles. She recently retired from the board of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion after serving on it for over a decade. 

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