Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.
Please note that OUDCE reserves the right to alter course content and/or cancel field trips in accordance with government guidance.
Who were the ‘Inklings’? We begin by turning back to Oxford University in the early 1930’s and the emergence of the literary group known as the ‘Inklings.’ As well as Owen Barfield, we encounter JRR Tolkien (1892-1973), CS Lewis (1898-1963) and Charles Williams (1886-1945). We will begin to grasp problems about the relationships between Barfield, Tolkien and Lewis.
We embark upon a close examination of the life, work and thought of Barfield. Our initial concerns involve the nature of his philosophy, including his background, interests and influences. Here we discuss: Plato and Neoplatonism; Romanticism and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834); philosophical idealism; Goethe (1749-1832); Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) and anthroposophy. We continue by exploring Barfield’s Poetic Diction: A Study in Meaning (1928).
Following Poetic Diction, two works will form the basis of our discussions – Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry (1957) and the dialogical Worlds Apart (1963). These texts will familiarise us with key terms, concepts and arguments developed by Barfield. At this stage we are able to discuss a range of views, ideas and problems concerning meaning, language, history, ‘evolution of consciousness,’ ‘participation,’ imagination, religion, myth, science, knowledge and so on.
We examine the close friendship between Barfield and CS Lewis, and Barfield’s intellectual influence on Lewis and Tolkien. Among topics discussed here will be Christianity, myth, metaphor, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Allegory of Love, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, methexis and ‘final participation.’
From consciousness studies to economics and literary theory, we discuss the contemporary relevance and application of Barfieldian thought, and explore a variety of figures influenced by his work. By seeking to understand and situate Barfield’s oeuvre, we facilitate critique and evaluation. We will be able to relate Barfield’s thought to contemporary philosophical discourse.