In the inaugural lecture for his new professorship at Cambridge in 1954, C. S. Lewis famously compared himself to a dinosaur – a creature from another time, out of place in his own surroundings. Rather than presenting this as a drawback, however, Lewis suggested that this was an advantage. While it’s true that paleontologists can learn much about the giant lizards through archaeology and other methods, how much better would it be to have a live specimen, to see it in action. Lewis presented himself as just such a specimen, a representative of a worldview from a bygone era. It was to Cambridge’s advantage that they had hired him, so that others might see what makes the dinosaur tick.
If Lewis could describe himself as a dinosaur in the 1950s, how much more so now, some sixty years after his death. And yet, in our experience this dinosaur still speaks to undergraduate students in the early 2020s. What accounts for this appeal? Most likely it’s a number of factors: the vividness of his imagery, the clarity of his thought, and the winsomeness of his prose, to name a few. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that people still find much to learn in the writings of this self-described dinosaur. We have found that Lewis rekindles in students a love for reading and opens their minds and hearts, even if only slightly, to reconsider the attractiveness of the Christian faith. For these and other reasons, we have begun The C. S. Lewis Fellowship to encourage the dissemination of his thought at the secondary and post-secondary levels. (Photo Credit: The Marginalian)
Why a “Fellowship”?
C.S. Lewis – Jack, to his friends – was a man who prized friendship. One could argue, he implies in The Four Loves, that friendship is the highest of the natural loves, and some of his fondest memories were of time spent with friends sharing a pint and a pipe, arguing about literature or music or any number of topics. The name of our enterprise draws its inspiration from Lewis’s love of friendship.
In academia, “fellowships” frequently refer to monetary awards that enable a scholar to pursue his intellectual interests. While our enterprise does offer mini-grants for the development of syllabi and course units to teach the writings of C. S. Lewis, we are using the word in its more original sense of friendship. Part of the purpose of this initiative is to cultivate friendships among those who have been inspired by Lewis’s writings, either on their own or in the classroom. We seek to foster a network for those who find teaching Lewis’s works invigorating and effective in leading students to fall in love with reading and to come to a new perspective on Christianity. Our primary goal is not to generate scholarship (though we have benefited from it and support those who pursue it), but rather to promote the teaching of Lewis at the high school and college levels. The time seems ripe for a Renaissance in Lewis studies, and we want to contribute to such a rebirth.