Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Reclaiming Fantasy from Geekdom

What's so exciting about Caldecott's Beauty for Truth's Sake is that he's not alone. As I tried to point out, his work is a gateway drug to a series of thinkers who are picking up Lewis' discarded image, polishing it up, and looking through it again. Among those Caldecott might have mentioned is the erudite Alison Milbank, who is up to something very similar in her book subtitled The Fantasy of the Real. Let's face it: A lot of us are sick of the Inklings. (Incidentally, this is only because we see them as some clever modern authors among others, not what they were - medieval conduits.) But like Planet Narnia, this latecomer adds something genuinely new to the discussion:
Because of Tolkein's membership of the Inklings group, we are accustomed to thinking of him as a writer of pure fantasy, like Charles Williams or C.S. Lewis. Interpreting his work through Chesterton, I hope to show that he is equally concerned with realism and with writing fictions about real things, or at least in using fantasy and the fictive to restore our true relations with what Auden called "those wordless creatures who are there as well."
There's also a wonderful interview with Milbank in the current Mars Hill Audio, to which one simply must subscribe (I resisted far too long). How refreshing to consider fantasy not as an escape, but as a means of helping us engage the concrete, objective, articulate cosmos that has weathered the subjective storms of modernity. Fantasy: Smelling salts to awaken us from the Kantian dream.