Belmont University Partners With Narnia on Tour for Past Watchful Dragons Conference

Fans of the Chronicles of Narnia series will be in for a treat this week as Belmont University, in partnership with Narnia on Tour, will present the Past Watchful Dragons Conference – a scholarly look at faith and culture within the literature of C.S. Lewis, to be held Nov. 3-5 at the Belmont Campus in Nashville, Tenn.

The event will feature a diverse group of 45 Lewis researchers and experts ranging from recognized scholars such as Christopher Mitchell (Director of the Marion E. Wade Center and Assistant Professor of Theology at Wheaton College) and Bruce Edwards (Associate Dean and Professor of English at Bowling Green State University) to undergraduate students from Belmont as well as a number of panels discussing the works of writers associated with Lewis such as J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Owen Barfield, and Dorothy Sayers.

Other features of the event include a banquet featuring keynote speaker Douglas Gresham, stepson of C.S. Lewis and consultant to the 2005 film The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, a performance of David Payne’s “Evening With C.S. Lewis” play, and concert performances from Glass Hammer – a literary progressive rock band who will be performing music from their C.S. Lewis-themed double album The Inconsolable Secret - and the Nashville Symphony – who will be performing Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings Symphony.

Belmont, who has included several courses on C.S. Lewis over the past years (all of which they’ve made available this semester), began planning the Past Watchful Dragons in coordination with the release upcoming Disney film The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in hopes of “widening the perspective” on the hype surrounding the film, according to Dr. Amy H. Sturges, visiting lecturer at Belmont in Interdisciplinary Studies and director of the Past Watchful Dragons Conference.

“I think we learned a lot looking at how the reactions to Peter Jackson’s film (The Lord of the Rings) brought attention to J.R.R Tolkien,” said Sturges, “and we think that [The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe] will do the same for C.S. Lewis in underscoring the importance of his life and the messages that he held that were most important; we’re just trying to widen the perspective a bit.”

Sturges says that films like Lord of the Rings and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are causing a “blurring of lines” between high-culture and low-culture.

“I think as a whole the academic society is beginning to recognize that popular culture might actually be something worth studying,” said Sturges, who expects about 1,000 people to come to the event. “I taught a course on Harry Potter and it’s a great way to hook students’ enthusiasm and bring them in to consider some very serious subject matter. In the same way that Shakespeare was popular in his own time, these are great things that are worthy of scholarly attention, and just because they’re mainstream doesn’t change that.”

Zach Kincaid, director of Narnia on Tour (a 25-date academic lecture tour), agrees that films such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe are bringing due attention to books such as the Chronicles of Narnia, but hopes that events like Narnia on Tour can go beyond the “movie hype” and bring greater interest to the “rich texts” of Lewis and many other authors.

“With Narnia on Tour, we don’t necessarily want to react to film and the hype created by it,” Kincaid told The Christian Post, “but rather we want to use that hype and in some ways be a counter to it. With Narnia on Tour, you’re not going in there for a 10 minute power-packed preview of the film – this is a 30 minute lecture and response time to get you thinking about the issues in the text.”

Kincaid says he’s not certain if he’ll be coordinating his future efforts to, “bring faith and culture to the public square,” with other major motion picture releases, but says he is pleased with the results of Narnia on Tour, which has drawn crowds ranging from 20 to 200 to bookstores and other venues across the United States.

Narnia on Tour will visit 14 more cities this month, ending on Nov. 19 in Dallas, Texas.

For more information on Past Watchful Dragons and other Narnia on Tour events, visit www.belmont.edu/cslewis and www.narniatour.com.