Once again, on Saturday the best academic session was the first one of the day. The panel opened with a paper about Susan's fate in The Last Battle, which quoted extensively from Neil Gaiman's short story on the subject. Does anyone know how I can get my hands on that short story, by the way? I think the most intersting point the presenter had was that she felt Lewis treated Susan a bit unjustly for not really noting the effect that it would have on her to lose her entire family in one blow. She took him to task for some comments he had written in a letter to one of his readers calling Susan vain and silly but saying that she still had time to repent. She thought he should have acknowledged that Susan would have already been a different person because of what happened to her family.
The second paper was a crash course in Fandom; it was probably more interesting to people who didn't already know all about it, but I thought it was a pretty good overview anyway. The third presenter was a very dynamic and entertaining speaker. He opened by giving us the “Cliffs Notes version of Modern literature”, quoting first from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and then from Lewis’s “A Confession”, which alludes to the former:
For twenty years I've stared my level best
To see if evening--any evening--would suggest
A patient etherized upon a table;
In vain. I simply wasn't able.
To me each evening looked far more
Like the departure from a silent, yet crowded, shore
Of a ship whose freight was everything, leaving behind,
Gracefully, finally, without farewells, marooned mankind.
*shivers* I like it. Anyway, he went on to explain why Tolkien and Lewis, despite having set themselves up against Modernism, really are, in their own way, a part of that era of literature. I really liked his presentation. It reminded me of the classes I used to enjoy in college and high school.
The next session was about religious themes, archetypes, allegory and what Lewis called “supposal” (what he claims to have been doing with Aslan in TCoN rather than allegory). As connielane said, the papers fit so well together that it’s difficult to separate out the different points made by each.
After that, we took a long break (and I took a nap), and we returned that evening for The Lord of the Rings Symphony. The Symphony was an excellent way to end the conference. Most of it was really beautiful, and of course I cried a fair bit. I only had two complaints. One, that the boy soprano who sang the solos in the first movement was not really up to the task of singing in front of a huge crowd of people—he let nerves get the better of him, particularly in the lament for Gandalf. I wish the young woman who sang the solos in the last two movements would have just done all of them. She was very poised, and had a lovely, flutelike sound on the higher bits like “Evenstar” that would have worked well where a boy soprano was called for. Most impressively, she also sounded just as good on the low and belting parts of “Into the West.”
My other complaint is the fact that the concert came to a DEAD STOP for something like five minutes while a b’jillion late comers were allowed to come in and find their seats after the first mini stop in the midst of the first movement. Mmkay, I know how it is to be late to things, and I wouldn’t object to letting a few unfortunate stragglers in quickly and quietly in the middle of a long first movement, but SURELY there couldn’t have been that many people who just…had a little car trouble, or whatever. I mean, I think it's okay to let maybe a few people slide in and stand unobtrusvely at the back until the movement really ends and they can find their seats. I’ve been in that situation myself, so I can sympathize. But this was something like 300 people. (I might also add that the concert started a bit late to begin with, so people really ought to have had time to get there before the doors closed). Surely the people manning the doors should’ve known they couldn’t surreptitiously get that many people through the doors and into their seats during the little bit of premature applause that followed that little cadence? The only justifiable reason I can think of for it is if there was some fault of the university that caused people to be late—like a parking problem or something. I once was at a performance of Les Miz where many people, including my mother, were allowed to walk in after the second act had started because the women’s bathrooms had been ridiculously crowded during intermission, and there were so many ladies that simply had not been able to get through the line (despite having left their seats and gone out to get in line reasonably early in the break). But…I digress.
Anyway, all around it was a great weekend. I enjoyed hanging out with connielane, listening to Spamalot and a really cool Nashville radio station in the car—and occasionally rocking out to things like (random!) Ace of Base, and being followed around by a couple of energetic dogs at the house we stayed at. Oh, and on my last night there, we watched a couple of episodes of Moonlighting, which I also enjoyed. Good times. :)
Also, don't forget to check out connielane's second post on the conference here.