This past February, Dr. Adam Barkman spent time in Northern Ireland chasing down one of his favourite thinkers, C. S. Lewis. “My interest in Lewis studies has always been Lewis’s philosophical development,” he says, “especially as this is revealed through marginalia.” Marginalia—the marginal, unpublished notes of C. S. Lewis, were the focus of the trip. The majority of time was spent at Queen’s University Belfast, Lewis’s mother’s alma mater.
Lewis, a profoundly influential intellectual in evangelical circles, has been a common subject in Barkman’s writing and research for nearly a decade. It started with a debate in Christian Scholar’s Review on Lewis’s view of gender and culminated with a weighty tome on Lewis’s philosophical development, C. S. Lewis and Philosophy as a Way of Life.
“Being in Belfast also helped me ‘feel in my bones’ the city where Lewis grew up.”
It’s arguable that the culmination has yet to come, however, as Barkman continues his research. In order to get to the essence of the man, Barkman delved into the University’s “C. S. Lewis Collection.” A series of ten letters between Lewis and a gentleman on the origins debate were donated to the school in 2012. Barkman’s particular interest is on the dialogue the two men held on positions Christians can or can’t take with respect to evolution.
It was time well spent. “What I found particularly valuable,” he says, “was exploring the context of these letters through various secondary sources present and discussing these with resident and visiting scholars there.”
Visiting Lewis’s birthplace was an added bonus and unexpected delight. “Being in Belfast also helped me ‘feel in my bones’ the city where Lewis grew up,” notes Barkman. “I returned feeling deeply inspired and refreshed.”
Research and teaching are synergistic. Many of Dr. Barkman’s courses feature Lewis and will continue to do so, perhaps now in an even more pronounced way. PHL 121, the Story of Philosophy, will feature an essay assignment on The Weight of Glory. An upper-year Environmental Philosophy course will use Perelandra as a thought experiment on, in Barkman’s words, “how things might have been at the origin of things.”
It’s not impossible to imagine that a Redeemer student’s rough, marginal notes might one day become the topic of research. Until then, sitting in on Dr. Barkman’s classes will have to do.