Thursday, December 3, 2020

The Barfield Event

So, today Signum University hosted a 75 minute event celebrating the publication of a new collection of plays and long poems by Owen Barfield. The presenters include Barfield's grandson (whom I'd corresponded with but not met), who gave a fairly detailed outline of his grandfather's thought; Leslie A. Taylor and Jefferey H. Taylor, co-editors of the new book; David Blakeley, the book's publisher; and moderator Gabriel Schenk. 

The whole presentation is now up on You-Tube:

While the presentation seemed to me a bit unfocused I enjoyed it --there aren't many Barfield scholars out there and it's always interesting to find out what they've been working on.  Unfortunately, no doubt due to time constraints they discussed only the title piece.

The full contents of the book are three long poems (THE TOWER, THE UNICORN, and RIDERS ON PEGASUS) and four plays, three of them forming a trilogy called ANGELS AT BAY and the fourth a standalone piece called MEDEA. 

THE TOWER is a metaphoric one, neither the Dark Tower of Lewis's unfinished novel nor Tolkien's allegorical tower built of old stone. An ambitious undertaking on Barfield's part (originally written circa 1922, rewritten circa 1926-27), part autobiography I suspect and part his personal analogue to Wordsworth's THE PRELUDE. Unfortunately I don't think it fully came off. Of the two other long poems collected here,  I've read one: RIDERS ON PEGASUS, although the version I read was called THE MOTHER OF PEGASUS.* The other, THE UNICORN, is altogether unknown to me. On the whole I think Barfield's plays are better than his poems; he's better at dialogue than verse. ANGELS AT BAY I got to read years ago, thanks to the Wade Collection's Chris Mitchell, and quite liked. MEDEA Is the one I've been waiting for -- we've known for years that it was read to the Inklings back in 1944 (see LETTERS OF JRRT, p. 103) -- so I'm really looking forward to reading this one.**

So, it's rare that we get new never-before-published Barfield. To get such a substantial (over three hundred pages) collection is a boon to Barfield fans and shd interest those interested in the Inklings beyond just Lewis and Tolkien as well.

And now to read . . . 

--John R.

current reading: THE TOWER by Owen Barfield, ADRIFT ON THE HAUNTED SEAS by Wm Hope Hodgson, ed. Douglas A. Anderson.

*A bound photocopy of this book used to be on the available-for-checkout shelves of the Wheaton College Library; I suspect it had been created to be used in a class by Clyde Kilby. At any rate, when I discovered this I checked it out and photocopied the whole thing page by page, then spiral bound the results into a booklet that has been on my Barfield shelf ever since.

**For some reason the editors date this work to the 1970s

No comments: