Classic Influence

Oxford lecturer to talk on the significance of C.S. Lewis’ education

by Molly Daniels

C.S. Lewis is perhaps best known for his series “The Chronicles of Narnia” and his various theologically-themed books. But C.S. Lewis never studied theology at a university. Some tend to forget that his education was actually in Greek and Latin literature, philosophy, and history. He was also a lover of mythology. In other words, his beliefs, writings, and personal philosophies have their foundation in some of the classics.

Scholar Jonathan Kirkpatrick will be at Whitworth on Feb. 26 to talk about how Lewis’ education influenced his way of life, his way of thinking, and all of his works. Kirkpatrick plans to focus on several of Lewis’s most prominent works, including “Prince Caspian” (which he chose primarily because the Greek god Bacchus makes an appearance) and “A Preface to Paradise Lost,” which mentions Virgil, an ancient Roman poet.

“Lewis had a close relationship with Virgil,” Kirkpatrick said, describing Lewis’ interest in the poet’s work. “He even wrote a translation of one of Virgil’s works (‘The Aeneid’).”

This is one example of how Lewis involved his fascination with Greek and Latin literature with his writings. Kirkpatrick said he will examine the effect of the classics on Lewis from several different angles, including theological, apologetic and literary. In addition, he will touch on Lewis’ passion for the classics, their effect on his faith and how he came to Christianity by studying pagan and classic texts.

The subject of Lewis means a great deal to Kirkpatrick, he said.

“I studied exactly the same things he did at the same university,” Kirkpatrick said.

He shares Lewis’ love of the classics and he admires the way Lewis made good use of his education. Not only that, but Kirkpatrick has been living in C.S. Lewis’ house for the past three years as a “Scholar-in-Residence.” That circumstance has given Kirkpatrick deeper insight into Lewis’ life by letting him see how he lived.

Kirkpatrick finished his doctorate’s degree last year. He has been on the Council of Christian Colleges, and he has also been a junior dean, a director of studies and a lecturer on the classics at Oxford University. Much of his time is spent lecturing at various colleges, as well as visiting with students on those campuses and encouraging them to attend Oxford.

Kirkpatrick will be speaking at 7 p.m. on Feb. 26 in Eric Johnston Science Center room 233.

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