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

Dr. Brenton Dickieson

Signum MA FacultySPACE Preceptor

Pilgrim in Narnia

Besides teaching in the literature department at Signum University. [see full bio...]

All Modules

Ink Spots and Tea Stains: What we Learn from C.S. Lewis's Writing Habits

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Medium intensity
C.S. Lewis is one of the most prolific and influential writers of the 20th century. And yet, in his early career as an Oxford don, he viewed himself as a failed poet. Moreover, his most canonical and transformational writing happened during the most stress-filled periods of his life. This short course allows students to peek into the writing life of C.S. Lewis. Our goal is to see through the lines of printed text by visiting the letters and archival remains of Lewis in a virtual setting. Most of C.S. Lewis's papers remain undigitized and unpublished, available only locally at archives in North America and England.

As Professor Brenton Dickieson has visited these archives, he is able to invite students to appreciate C.S. Lewis's writing life by looking at the way that he consciously and unconsciously built his literary career. This course is for writers who are developing their own habits and literary life-prints, as well as folks who are curious about C.S. Lewis's life beyond the biographies and bestselling books.

We are not doing text close readings, but looking at the “paratextual” information available to us: writing drafts, letters, diary entries, manuscripts and typescripts, title, and the like.

Week 1: Lewis: Pen, Ink, Paper
• C.S. Lewis’s Single-jointed Self-Conception as a Writer
• What Lewis Says about his Writing Habits
• Legendary Bonfires, Stuffed Dolls, and American Suckers: A Story of Lewis’s Papers and Manuscripts
• The Screwtape MS. Story: Part 1

Week 2: Leaves, Bombs, Stains
• The Screwtape MS. Story: Part 2
• “Villainous Handwriting”: Charlie Starr’s Lewis Handwriting and Rough Draft vs. Fair Draft
• Reconsidering the Lindskoog Affair with Manuscript Evidence of “The Dark Tower”

Week 3: Joy, Theft, Death
• “The Quest of Bleheris”: Lewis’s Teenage Novel

Week 4:
• Is it True that Lewis Wrote in a Single Draft?
• A Grief Observed
• Tumbling Through the Wardrobe: The Discovery of Narnia
• Arthurian Torso
• A New Sketch of Lewis’s Writing Process(es)

Note: This course includes a significant amount of visual material on the screen. Please contact the SPACE team if you have visual accessibility requirements and we will do everything we can to accommodate.

Reading L.M. Montgomery as Fantasy: Part 1: Anne of Green Gables

Mixed Lecture/Discussion • Low intensity
This course will be offered for the first time this October 2023 (Anne’s favourite month)

Within weeks of its 1908 publication, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables became a bestseller. Over the years, this charming orphan story put Montgomery and her imaginative Prince Edward Island on a global map.

Despite the fact that Anne of Green Gables is Canada’s bestselling novel throughout the world—or because of it—Montgomery was ignored by the literati and scholarship. Montgomery was a public intellectual, the first female Canadian fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and invested Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Still she was dismissed as “just” a children’s writer, a regionalist, or a woman. It was 25 years after Montgomery’s death before children’s literature and feminist scholars began to recover her work as worthy of study.

While there is a robust field of Montgomery scholarship, there are areas where our focus is sometimes too narrow. One of these is the category of “realistic” fiction. While there is a kind of verisimilitude about everyday life in the late Victorian era in her work, the realism is pressed to the margins of definition as Montgomery romanticizes the worlds she creates. And can we disagree that there is something magical about Anne herself? By changing our way of approach and by looking at Anne of Green Gables as a fantasy novel, what can we unveil in this classic novel?

Native Prince Edward Islander and Montgomery scholar Brenton Dickieson will lead students through a rereading of Anne of Green Gables using the lenses we use to study fantasy and speculative fiction with the goal of allowing one of the greatest living children’s books to live in new ways.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].