‘Chronicles of Narnia’ course explores literature, philosophy

January 29, 2008

Business and Economics major Abiodun Orevba ’10 is studying the seven books in the “Chronicles of Narnia” series this January. The books, in one volume, add up to 790 pages. For Oreyba, that translates into about five hours of reading each day.

“I love the books, but I’m a slow reader,” she says with a smile, a fat Narnia novel perched on her desk.

Orevba is one of more than 20 students studying Narnia during the Jan Term, a three-week-long minimester of uncommon courses. Students are required to take one Jan Term course during their career at McDaniel, and many use the opportunity to study in-depth a subject other than their major.

“I’m an Art and Art History major,” says Lisa Markline ’08. “This is my opportunity to explore something different.”

Professor of Exercise Science and Physical Education Alex Ober has led the course since the inception of Jan Terms in 1978, and it shows. He proudly displays final projects from previous years, ranging from movie posters and games to poems and portraits. The carefully underlined and highlighted pages of his well-loved books are as delicate as pressed flowers, barely held together by decades-old glue and tape.

“When it started, as now, the philosophy of the Jan Term was to teach something out of your field, something fun,” says Ober, who was introduced to the Narnia series as an adult and realized there was much to explore within its content. “It’s a learning experience that is pure fun. And hopefully, the students will graduate with the idea that reading is exciting.”

The course’s interdisciplinary approach examines the novels’ literary themes, autobiographical dimension and theological analogies.

“We are not arguing religion,” says Ober of the oft-cited Christian themes in the fantasy novels. “But we are exploring, as we would with any author, how C.S. Lewis put his worldview into the literature.”

The class breaks into groups each day in order to focus on the major aspects of the series. Together, students engage in lively discussion, watch related films and play Narnia games.

And after class, you can catch students like Angeliki Stellakis ’10 reading. She is on page 577 in the fourth book, and says she’s loving every minute of it.