The Magic Never Ends
Saturday, October 28, 2017, 8:30 a.m.
North Central Michigan College Library Conference Center
9:15 – 10:30 a.m. Session I: Chip Duncan: Opening remarks and viewing of documentary
Chip Duncan will offer opening remarks before the viewing of Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination and the Quest for Meaning.
10:45 to 11:45 a.m. Session II: Peter Kreeft: “A philosopher tries to define myth, its psychology and its ontology”
As a philosopher, Dr.Kreeft will define myth and locate it in the spectrum of human consciousness.
12:45 to 1:45 a.m. Session III: Suzanne Shumway: “Exploring the boundaries between literature and myth”
Myth is both the reflection of and the engine behind a culture’s collective unconscious. This workshop will focus on the boundaries between literature and myth, according to a definition of myth as an iconic point of reference shared by many people, to which people in a shared culture can refer with ease and the certainty of being understood. For example, Joseph Campbell famously used Star Wars to explain how myths can be consciously created in the modern world; likewise, J.R.R. Tolkien set out to write The Lord of the Rings precisely to supply England with its own mythic story.
But myths don’t have to be purposely created; sometimes they occur naturally when a writer produces a story that seizes the imagination of a culture by reflecting it in a way that is perceived as accurate and meaningful. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird has achieved such mythic status in the United States, perhaps more than any other novel from the 20th century, because it represents such an important point in the development of civil rights in our culture.
With this broad framework in mind, the workshop will explore the distinction between myth and literature, as we attempt to determine how literary myths both reflect and shape the cultures from which they emerge. Some of the questions we will cover will include the following:
- Is there a difference between naturally-occurring literary myths and consciously created ones?
- What are some characteristics of literary myths?
- What kind of ideological work is performed by literary myths?
- What happens when a myth is retold, as when C.S. Lewis writes Till We Have Faces? Does it automatically become a literary myth?
While the workshop may not yield any definitive answers to these questions, it will certainly produce a rich and useful discussion of myth and literature.
2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Session IV: Kip Murphy: “Myth and ministry: The Importance of story in our spiritual lives”
The word “myth” generally is taken to mean a contrived story used to explain why things are the way they. It is often used pejoratively to indicate a story or idea that is both ignorant and false. However, the word “myth” more accurately describes a story that conveys meaning and suggests nothing about the truth or falsehood of the story. CS Lewis and fellow-Inkling, JRR Tolkien, explored this understanding of myth in the second sense, that of meaningful story.
The Bible is a book with many different kinds of writing. It includes rules and commandments, as well as poetry and sage advice, but the Bible is primarily a book of stories. Modern, post-Enlightenment, westerners tend to understand the Bible’s stories as either fictional accounts by an ancient, irrational people (i.e., as “myth” in the pejorative sense) or as literal reports of events, much like we would expect to read in a modern newspaper. Both these ways of reading the Bible limit the way its story impacts our lives.
Looking at the Biblical story as “myth” is the sense that Lewis and Tolkien understood it can help us move beyond the modern, either/or view of Scripture so that we can apprehend a richer meaning. This “mythic” approach also helps us to grasp meaning in our own stories. Examples from my ministry will be used to illustrate the importance of myth in everyone’s spiritual life.