Sudbury

Laurentian University aims to become 'Oxford of the north'

Laurentian University in Sudbury is offering a number of new courses dedicated to the works of authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and their peers known as The Inklings.

New courses on Tolkien and C.S. Lewis generating a lot of interest, says Laurentian University professor

Jason Lepojarvi is a religious studies professor at Laurentian University in Sudbury. He says the university has a number of scholars from different departments who are world class experts in The Inklings and their cultural influence. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia are two of the most popular literary series of all time.

With film adaptations of each, their popularity continues to grow — so much so that Laurentian University in Sudbury is offering a number of new courses dedicated to the works of authors J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and their peers known as The Inklings.

Jason Lepojarvi is a religious studies professor at Thorneloe University, a federated school of Laurentian University. 

He says Laurentian is offering a number of courses based on the writings of The Inklings — an informal literary discussion group associated with the University of Oxford between the early 1930s and late 1949.

The Inklings included Tolkien and Lewis who both encouraged the writing of fantasy.

"A brand new [course] starting this January is called 'J.R.R. Tolkien and the Religious Imagination,' offered for the first time," said Lepojarvi. "It's the sister course of 'C.S. Lewis and the Religious Imagination," he added.

One of several other courses being offered looks specifically at The Chronicles of Narnia.

Lepojarvi says that with all the academic expertise it has on campus, Laurentian is working on creating an Inklings study hub or "the Oxford of the north."

"We just have a number of scholars from so many departments including History, English, Philosophy, Religious Studies, and Ancient Studies who have dabbled in or are world class experts on one of the members of The Inklings and their cultural influence," he explained.

"When I say tongue in cheek 'Oxford of the north,' I don't mean just the fact that these authors and philosophers happen to reside and work in Oxford and Cambridge, but also the style of teaching is in part modelled on The Inklings' tutorial style, which means smallish classrooms, vigorous debate, and pints — if possible," he said.

Lepojarvi believes that people are still reading authors like Tolkien and Lewis because their work is exemplary in terms of merging style and content.

As for the students, Lepojarvi says the new courses are generating a lot of interest.

"The way we know is that these students come back. Now we see familiar faces in new courses being taught. We're still in the early stages . . . you should ask me again in five years."

Turning Laurentian University into the Oxford of the North. Well, not quite, but more and more courses focused on authors like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are on the calendar at Throneloe University at Laurentian. Professor Jason Lepojarvi explains. 7:50

With files from Waubgeshig Rice

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.