Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

The Inklings Portal

FanFiction: Middle-earth

Do you imagine other tales set in Tolkien's beautiful Middle-earth? First person? FRP campaign design? Screen plays? Other minds and hands will come together to create and discuss "what if" for our own fanfiction. We will use a little peer-reading and a lot of focused discussion to move each writer deeper into the story they love. Expect to end the month with a folder full of story seeds or big progress on one big project.
Precepted by Sparrow Alden.

How To Catch a Bandersnatch

Diana Glyer's marvelous book "Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings" is part literary biography, part how-to guide for setting up your own writing group. We'll read her book and talk through both aspects. We'll unpack what it reveals about Tolkien's & Lewis's creative writing methods, and we'll brainstorm how we might apply those to our own writing, whether individually or in groups. You're totally welcome to attend if your interest is in the scholarly aspect (the Inklings as writers in their time), the creative aspect (how collaborative writing groups work), both, or something else altogether! Either way, I'm sure you'll be inspired and encouraged by the example of these great--but very human--writers.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Narnia and the Natural World

Join me for a re-read of The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis as we pay close attention to descriptions of the non-human environment. What do these books have to say about trees, plants, animals, soil, weather, the planet, atmosphere, stars, and more? Do they suggest right ways of flourishing in relation to the natural world? How do talking animals, walking trees, humanoid stars, magical waters, and mythical beasts teach us to love the creatures and creations of this primary world better? Let's rejoice in Lewis's loving descriptions of flora and fauna and revel in the wonder his magical world brings to our own.

(Note: This module is designed with Narnia fans in mind. First-time readers of the Chronicles are certainly welcome, but newcomers might prefer starting with Elise Trudel Cedeño's module on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe or with Sørina Higgins's Narnia for Newbies.)
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Narnia for Newbies Series

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' Narnia for Newbies Series exploring CS Lewis's beloved Narnia series, consisting of 7 modules (one module for each book in the Series).

Did you miss out on entering the magical land of Narnia as a kid? Come back to childhood with me as we open the wardrobe door and enter this wondrous land together. Travel with Lucy through the snowy, enchanted Lantern Waste, where is it always winter but never Christmas. Fight alongside dryads against an evil usurper. Sail with Eustace across the seas to mysterious islands full of invisible beings, dragons, and dreams. Ride a talking horse across the desert to save Narnia from invasion. Rescue a prince from the underworld. Watch creation itself, as Aslan, the great Lion, sings the world into existence. Be there at the end of all things, when the true tale is just beginning. Most of all, experience again the thrill of journeying through an imaginary land where myths are real, good triumphs over evil, and magic brings beauty to life on the page.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Participation, Creation, and Poetry: Barfield's Saving the Appearances and Poetic Diction

Owen Barfield, one of C.S. Lewis's closest friends and a core member of the Inklings, was one of the most original thinkers of the 20th century (although he did not think of himself as such). Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry sets forth the core theory of ongoing and evolving participation in creation which forms the core of Barfield's thought. Poetic Diction, a work that influenced not only Lewis but Tolkien as well, applies Barfield's theory to language in particular. In this module we will first read Saving the Appearances and then use that work as a basis for understanding Poetic Diction.
Precepted by Clayton McReynolds.

Planet Narnia

Do you believe that the Narnia chronicles have a secret code hidden in their imagery and themes? Would knowledge of medieval astronomy and astrology add depth to our reading of these children's books? We'll read Michael Ward's book Planet Narnia in conjunction with a re-read of the Narnia itself and debate the merits of his planetary interpretation. This course will work best for those who have read Lewis's series before.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Poetry in Tolkien's Time

While Tolkien was thinking up the earliest inklings of his Legendarium, he and his peers were fighting in the trenches of World War I--and writing poetry about it. Later, as he taught at Oxford, published The Hobbit, and wrote The Lord of the Rings, his great modernist contemporaries changed poetry forever with their experiments in free verse, then dominated the literary scene. In this course, we'll briefly look at verses by Tolkien, Lewis, Williams, and Barfield, then see what their more famous friends were up to. We'll give a day to soldier-poets of WWI, then devote time to Yeats, Eliot, Auden, and Pound. We'll glance at Stein, Stephen Spender, David Jones, and whichever other British Modernists you're interested in. Of necessity, this will be a brief fly-over survey, but deeper dives are possible in the future.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Reading Lewis' Ransom Cycle

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' series exploring Lewis's Ransom Cycle. In this book-club-style series, we will discuss C.S. Lewis’s novels Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. We’ll track his major themes, talk about the background he assumes, enjoy his secondary world, and perhaps cheerfully debate some of his theological claims. We’ll bring in a few of his other works briefly to see how they contribute to his subcreated universe, and we’ll touch on some points scholars have made to help us read these works more deeply.

This page will be updated to reflect which book in the Cycle is being explored in a given month.
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Reading Lewis' Ransom Cycle:
• Part 1: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel Out of the Silent Planet. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet)
• Part 2: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel Perelandra. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, Perelandra)
• Part 3: Exploring C.S. Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength and a few short related texts. (Required Text: C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength)
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "All Hallows' Eve" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about his last, greatest novel: All Hallows' Eve. Two of the main characters in it are dead, but this does not prevent them from interacting with the living, including a painter with profound spiritual insight, a black magician who makes two copies of himself to rule the world, and a woman who conceives a daughter in order to sacrifice her to her devilish master.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Descent into Hell, which expresses his signature ideas perhaps more clearly than any of his other writings. It features a Shakespearean play, a doppelgänger, a succubus, an ancient witch, and several supernatural acts of substitution that transcend time and space.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "Many Dimensions" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and other influential writers of the early 20th century. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Many Dimensions, in which a magical stone engraved with the letters of the Tetragrammaton can transport people through time and space, heal illnesses, grant wealth, and otherwise transcend the laws of nature. It is up to a young secretary to offer herself as a bridge to save the world from destruction. While Many Dimensions is a kind of sequel to War in Heaven, they can be studied on their own, and students need not take that course before this one, although they are welcome to do so.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers Series Exploring Charles Williams

This is the Landing Page for Prof. Higgins' Supernatural Shockers Series exploring Charles Williams' seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life.

This page will be updated to reflect which module in the series is being offered once the class decides.
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
Supernatural Shockers Series Exploring Charles Williams:
• Supernatural Shockers: "War in Heaven" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "Many Dimensions" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "The Place of the Lion" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "The Greater Trumps" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "Shadows of Ecstasy" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "Descent into Hell" by Charles Williams > Link
• Supernatural Shockers: "All Hallows' Eve" by Charles Williams > Link
•••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
NOTE: Students can jump in at any month/part of the Series. There are no prerequisites.

Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "Shadows of Ecstasy" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about Shadows of Ecstasy, in which an immortal guru invades England with an army of African soldiers, offering magical transmutation of the passions to his followers. While Williams wrote this novel first, it was published later, but still reveals an early, ambiguous phase of his religious thought.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order; however, this is the strangest and most disturbing of Williams's fiction, so students would probably benefit from taking at least one other module in this cycle first.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "The Greater Trumps" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about The Greater Trumps, in which the original deck of Tarot Cards and a set of dancing golden figures offer power to foretell the fortunes of the world and control the elements. A deadly snowstorm, a madwoman, and a saint are among the memorable features of this unforgettable, vivid novel of spiritual submission and supernatural power.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "The Place of the Lion" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was an occult master, a Christian mentor, and a member of the Inklings with Tolkien and Lewis. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about The Place of the Lion, in which the Platonic archetypes invade the English countryside in the form of gigantic animals, threatening to swallow up all of reality.

While this course is part of a cycle of seven classes on the various novels, they may be taken in any order without prerequisites.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Supernatural Shockers: "War in Heaven" by Charles Williams

Charles Williams was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, Dorothy Sayers, and other influential writers of the early 20th century. He wrote seven startling metaphysical thrillers: bizarre, engaging, wild novels in which the supernatural invades ordinary life. In this course, we'll talk about War in Heaven, in which a saintly archdeacon, a poetic duke, and a publisher's clerk race to save the Holy Grail from the three satanists who want to use it to destroy the world.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

The History, People, and Culture of Tolkien's Númenor

With the publication of The Fall of Númenor (November 2022) we finally have much of Tolkien’s writing on this period in the history Middle-earth drawn together in one place. This offers a unique opportunity, at a moment when the island of Númenor has come to greater public awareness via Amazon’s show ‘The Rings of Power’, to fully examine this aspect of Tolkien’s secondary world. In this course, we will explore the history of Númenor, with particular focus on important events, significant people, the geography of the island, and the evolving culture of the Númenóreans.
Precepted by Sara Brown.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

Is the Holy Grail a cup, a platter, or a stone? Where did it come from? Is it real? What does it mean to "achieve" the Grail? Is it only a Christian legend? Why has it remained popular and grown in significance over a thousand-year period of European literature? What does Monty Python have to do with the Grail? How did Indiana Jones get involved? What is the connection between the Grail and Tolkien’s legendarium? Where is the ring of Arthur the King? What Lord has such a treasure in his house?
We'll answer these questions and many more in this course, which will follow the evolution of the Grail from brief references in the Bible through Celtic fertility rituals and medieval romance to its varied presentations today. No prior knowledge is needed, and each student will determine their own reading load and selections.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Till We Have Faces: Lewis's Finest Work

This whole module will be devoted to a close reading of C.S. Lewis's best novel (and, in my opinion, his best work in any genre). We'll talk through it carefully, tracing themes, unpacking dense passages, examining the secondary world he has created, and immersing ourselves in this profound, poignant tale of one woman's spiritual journey.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Tolkien & Magic

The magic of Middle-earth is a fascinating topic, sparking conversations about its nature, origins, mechanism, and primary-world analogues. Did you know that while Tolkien was writing his fictional language, many of his friends and contemporaries were practicing ceremonial magic? In this class, we’ll look at Elf-magic, Entish powers, prophecy, wizardry, telepathy, the power of the Ring, angelic and constructed languages, words of power, Saruman’s sorcerous voice, immortality, and spiritual ontology. We might even find out what Tolkien thought of his friends who told fortunes and cast spells!
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Tolkien's Ents and the Environment

J. R. R. Tolkien had great sensitivity to the details, delights, and vitality of the natural world. Throughout his writings, and especially in episodes involving the Ents and the land of Rohan, he pays exquisite attention to the lives and even personalities of trees, leaves, trunks, roots, atmosphere, streams, lichen, weather, rocks, cliffs, sun, moon, wind, rain, grass, soil, and other specific elements of creation. In this course, we will read these passages slowly and carefully, trying to appreciate every detail, and discuss what we can learn about caring for flora, fauna, and the planet itself from his loving descriptions and from some smart commentaries on his work.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Tolkien & Williams as Worldbuilders

J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams were friends, contemporaries, and fellow members of the Inklings. They both invented secondary worlds in which to set their stories, poems, and myths--and they both made maps! Indeed, each imagines that his other world is actually a pre-history to or alternative history for our own. We will take a brief look at JRRT's Legendarium and CW's Arthuriana, asking how they developed the geography, history, demographics, and cultures of their imagined worlds, how those related to the primary world, and what significance or symbolism each invited readers to infer from their invented lands.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

Worldbuilding for SFF Writers

While building an entire world may seem like a daunting or divine task, thankfully there are many great writers who have gone before and left behind their advice, instructions, and encouragement for creating a secondary universe of your own. In this course, we'll look at what some smart and skillful folks have said about subcreation, then apply their ideas to your constructed storyworlds. We'll talk about how to choose and develop the properties of your land, what unique objects it contains, what level of technology its inhabitants have reached, who those inhabitants are, what language(s) they speak, what the physical nature of the world is, how its logic works, and--most importantly--its atmosphere and the philosophical implications of each of your creative choices. You should leave this course ready to set stories in your secondary universe.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].