In the Footsteps of the Original Inklings

Those of us who love reading and thinking about the writings of C. S. Lewis, J. R.R. Tolkien, and others who were part of their company don’t want to do all of our reading and thinking alone. We like to gather together as often as possible to share in this mutual affection for authors who have made an impact on our faith and imagination. We do so at conferences, but schedules, finances, and other impediments limit our attendance—we have to be selective. The combination of the desire to fellowship with others of like mind but being limited in our freedom to accomplish this, has led many to attempt to imitate what Lewis, Tolkien, and others did in their day: setting up their own Inklings groups in local communities.

Back in 2018, another professor and I at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, had the vision for establishing an Inklings group that would incorporate interested professors and students at our university. However, we chose not to set it up as an official university group; rather, we opted for it to be a private entity and sought to invite whoever might be interested, whether part of the university or not. The original intent was for it to be student-led, and that did work for a few years, but the leadership gradually drifted toward me instead. Since I have become somewhat of a Lewis scholar, I accepted the responsibility for leading the group, a pleasurable task that I have carried out now for nearly two years.

Our discussions have run the gamut of interests, primarily literary, of course, but also other paths such as films, the latest television attempts at drama, and other associated topics. Lately, I have begun to introduce specific Lewis essays for discussion. We have covered thus far “The Weight of Glory,” “Learning in War-Time,” “The Inner Ring,” and Lewis’s thoughts on writing for children. In our last meeting, I sent the members a draft of the first chapter of my next Lewis book for them to critique. That was a valuable experience for me; it resulted in my adding an entire new subsection.

Our Inklings group has become a combination of professors, students, and alumni that we professors have taught. It is heartening to know that those alums still want to participate, and they help add to the robust discussions. Attendance has been variable, but no matter how many show up (we do this every other Friday afternoon at a coffee shop connected to the public library), we always end our time together having feasted (so to speak) on spiritual food. Our last meeting saw an almost-record turnout, so I wanted a photo of the group.

Can you have a real discussion with that many people? Yes, yes, you can.

So let this blog post be an encouragement for all who love these writers and who desire to share that love with others. Explore how the Lord might want you to follow in the footsteps of those original Inklings.