Past Watchful Dragons, a weekend-long conference at Belmont on the life and works of author C.S. Lewis, is being proclaimed a triumph, with more than 300 people registered for the conference and attending a variety of academic lectures, book-signings, and dinners, and two well-attended concerts by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and by progressive rock band Glass Hammer. “Even in the panels where our students were presenting papers we had scholars standing in the back because 60 chairs were not enough to hold everyone – and we had four sessions running concurrently, so that tells you something,” says conference organizer Dr. Amy H. Sturgis, professor of liberal studies at Belmont.
The conference began Thursday evening with a reception, a banquet and a keynote speech by Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis, the famed author of numerous books about Christianity and spirituality as well as the children’s book series The Chronicles of Narnia. Gresham gave what was described as a forceful, energetic, and eloquent speech about his stepfather’s influence on his own life, the forthcoming Disney movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, on which he has served as an adviser.
The main focus of the three-day event was the academic conference, an exploration of fantasy and faith in the world of C.S. Lewis and a celebration of Lewis’ contribution to literature, theology, apologetics, scholarship, popular culture, myth, and imagination. Sturgis say work is underway to sift through the various academic papers and presentations made at the conference to select the best for publication in a book. She noted that representatives from some scholarly journals were there, “passing out business cards as fast as they could,” so many more papers may wind up being published in various journals.
On Friday evening of the conference, British actor David Payne presented his one-man performance, An Evening with C. S. Lewis,, portraying Lewis in 1963 in England entertaining a group of visiting Americans who wished to become writers. “A lot of students attended that,” Sturgis says. “I was glad to see that.”
Saturday afternoon, Glass Hammer’s concert featured music from their album “The Inconsolable Secret,” with music and lyrics inspired by the writings of C.S. Lewis. GHFan.net, a Glass Hammer fan website, has a review and two galleries of pictures from the concert. Gallery 1. Gallery 2.
Glass Hammer was joined on stage by a string trio and also, near the end of the concert, by a mass choir of about 200 Belmont students.
Conference attendees – which Sturgis said included many academics as well as students, families who home-school their children, and “people from as far away as Japan” – were also treated to the presentation of a play, The Eagle and Child, which tells the story of the friendships between Lewis, his brother,
author J.R.R. Tolkien, and one of the other members of the “Inklings” – a group of authors who were Lewis’ contemporaries and friends. The play was performed entirely by Belmont students.
Saturday night, the Nashville Symphony Orchestra performed Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings Symphony: Six movements for Orchestra and Chorus. The music comes from the three Lord of the Rings, which are based on books by Tolkien. Shore composed the score for the movies. As the symphony played, a wide screen showed projections of Lord of the Rings imagery.
All images by university staff photographer Michael Krouskop. All images clickable for larger versions.
Additional coverage of the event:
NarnaWeb.com reports: This past week, beginning November 3, the doors were opened to Narnia and Middle-Earth. Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, hosted a conference which featured Inklings scholars from around the world talking about a various range of subjects in relation to their works for two and a half magic filled days. The wardrobe door was opened on Wednesday by C.S. Lewis stepson and author, Mr. Douglas Gresham.
EthicsDaily.com reports: C.S. Lewis died more than 40 years ago in England, but his life and work resounded Thursday night in Nashville, Tenn., through stories told by his stepson at a Belmont University gathering. [His stepson] Douglas Gresham was the keynote speaker at Belmont’s “Past Watchful Dragons: Fantasy and Faith in the World of C.S. Lewis” conference, which took place Nov. 3-5. It drew more than 250 registrants from beyond the Belmont community, with participants coming from as far away as Japan, Poland, England and Ireland.
ChristianActivities.com says: Douglas Gresham, the stepson of C.S. Lewis, was the guest of honor at the Past Watchful Dragons conference at Nashville’s Belmont University November 4-7. Speaking at a dinner on Thursday night, Gresham talked about how both the The Chronicles of Narnia books and movie came about. In the late 1940’s, Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were talking about children’s books, commenting upon the lack of honor, chivalry and personal responsibility in modern tales. “They decided if no one else was doing it, they better do it themselves,” Gresham noted. The first result was The Hobbit, closely followed by the Narnia series.
ChristianActivities.com has additional coverage here.