Science Fiction and Fantasy

“A Catholic, a Protestant, and an atheist start a fantasy series…” It sounds like the set-up for a joke, but it also describes the world-building endeavors of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Phillip Pullman, respectively. Their fantasies are serious business, for they take part in a vibrant and longstanding set of debates about art and belief. What should be the relation between made-up worlds and the one we inhabit? Is there a connection between creative principle expressed by humans and the existence, or not, of a divine Creator? Can art seek to persuade and remain art, or does it thereby become argument or propaganda? In addition to major works of Tolkien, Lewis, and Pullman, we will read excerpts from religious and literary texts on which they draw: Hebrew and Christian Scripture, Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost.