Friday 5 September 2014

The Inklings and the Sexual Revolution: the Politics of the Inklings

The sexual revolution (or 'sexual liberation' - it is the same phenomenon) - which is the expansion of legitimate and approved sex outwith the context of (real) marriage - is probably the main socio-political 'litmus test' or 'hot button political issue' in the modern world.

When it comes to The Inklings, there is no doubt that the views of the core Inklings on this issue are against the sexual revolution. And this is true, whatever failures individual inklings may have exhibited in living-up-to this ideal.

Given this fact, and the central importance given in modern culture to 'which side' of the issue an individual occupies (to oppose the sexual revolution is a vilifying, sacking, fining and indeed imprisonable offence in many Western societies including the UK and USA) it is surprising that most of those who write about the Inklings are (to varying degrees) advocates of the sexual revolution.

Aside from the core Inklings of Tolkien, Williams, and the Lewis brothers; and other major figures such as Havard - there is some advocacy of the sexual revolution within the peripheral Inklings and their visitors. Even Charles Williams is a bit slippery on this issue - with his advocacy of something rather like the adulterous Platonic passion of Chivalric love.

Owen Barfield may be an example of advocating the sexual revolution - although I find it hard to know either way - in the sense that he had an extra-marital affair/s, and two simultaneous non-married sexual relationships that I know of) and did not seem to feel any particular objective problem about this. John Wain (a much more peripheral figure) was an open and active advocate of the sexual revolution; in public and in private.

But whatever may be said on this side; it is blazingly obvious that the core Inklings were and would be solidly against the sexual revolution as it has panned-out and continues in the West.

So, this is a neglected aspect of the Politics of the Inklings in modern scholarship. It appears mainly in the context of ridiculous accusations of 'misogyny' (based, presumably, on ignorance of the facts); or the misconception that there was something strange and distorted about the Inklings knowledge and experience of Women; or even the idea (going back to William Ready's wildly error-full book Understanding Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings) that there was some homosexual element to the Inklings (on the Freudian basis that zero evidence equals repression, hence constitutes conclusive proof).

Here, there is a difference according to the focus. The great bulk of high status Tolkien scholarship is secular - and indeed mostly Leftist (Shippey excepted) - although a Roman Catholic element is becoming more frequent). The sexual revolution element is either ignored, or else Tolkien is either argued or simply assumed to be wrong when it comes to matters pertaining to the sexual revolution (sometimes very aggressively so!). By contrast Lewis scholarship is and always has been rooted in Christian authors - and is written from a perspective in opposition to the sexual revolution. Charles Williams scholarship, on the other hand, while mostly 'religious' mostly nowadays comes from 'Liberal Christians' - i.e. those evasive, deluded or fake Christians who self-identify as Christian but embrace and advocate the sexual revolution in one or another form.

However, Lewis aside, Inklings scholars and critics fail to perceive that the central tendency of the Inklings is very strongly against the sexual revolution; and that this is intrinsic to what the Inklings were about - not something lightly to be ignored, attacked or deleted.

This is a no-brainer. To put it plainly; if you are pro-Inklings and yet you approve the sexual revolution; then you have either fundamentally misunderstood The Inklings, or else adhere to a distorted and dishonest account of what it was they were about - trimmed to fit your pre-existing prejudices and convictions.



Leo said...

When I was in the U.S. Army involved in monitoring its drug abuse screening program in the Vietnam era, it became clear that above a certain rank or age, drugs (notably excluding alcohol) were simply not a problem. It was a generational divide, as was the sexual revolution. The Inklings were on the old side of the sexual revolution. No doubt there were sexual avant-garde types and old-fashioned sinners at Oxbridge in the era of the Inklings, some of whom might have been friends or associates, but the core Inklings didn’t hide their devotion to old traditions, even very old ones, and to Christianity. It would be foolish to attempt to read them or to understand them by projecting back onto them the current Zeitgeist. Even Freud, who would have loomed large in their era and who led his own revolution, is no longer the unchallenged icon of modernism he once was.

Anonymous said...

To blurt out a first reaction, I wonder how much it is an (unconscious/semi-conscious, self-deceptive) attempt to separate sub-creations from their sub-creators and (as it were, to paraphrase Romans 1:25) 'to enjoy the sub-creature more than honouring the sub-creator'. What is done with respect to the Primary World is repeated on the level of the mythopoeic Secondary World (to use some of the language of "On Fairy-Stories"). The 'challenges' which the sub-creators are aspiring to re-present are occluded and 'neutralized' as far as possible to facilitate a merely aestheticized enjoyment on the part of the 'neutralizer'. It seems indeed a misunderstanding, however deliberate or otherwise, in fact trimming to a distorted account, parodying proper critical analysis and appreciation.

David Llewellyn Dodds