Professor of Education Daniel Coupland researched two in-depth projects on C.S. Lewis in Oxford this spring. While there, Coupland was able to stay at the Kilns, Lewis’ former residence, where he studied and worked on his projects.
“Every so often I would pause and just reflect on the fact that Lewis lived here for 30 years, and he walked these hallways, and he was reading in the library, and he ate in the dining room,” Coupland said. “I have a lot of respect for him, and just to walk the halls that he walked and to see the desk where he wrote ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ that was just amazing.”
Coupland’s research focused on Lewis’ use of the theological virtues as well as the influence of Kenneth Grahame, author of “The Wind in the Willows,” in Lewis’ life and writings.
“Lewis cites ‘The Wind in the Willows’ perhaps more than any other novel,” Coupland said. “He cites it in quite a few of his articles, but he uses the characters from ‘The Wind in the Willows’ in a few of his more well-known books like ‘The Four Loves’ and ‘The Problem of Pain.’”
Coupland said his fascination with Lewis goes beyond a simple appreciation of his works, as Lewis helped to shape his understanding of Christ.
“I would say that Lewis, through ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ helped me to develop an understanding of who Christ is, and I would suggest that the imaginative side of his writing, him providing these images, has actually deepened that understanding,” Coupland said.
Coupland stayed at the Kilns for three weeks and was allowed to use Lewis’ former house as a place of study through the C.S. Lewis Foundation, which owns the property. While there, Coupland had the opportunity to eat lunch at The Eagle and Child, a pub in Oxford that was a former meeting spot of Lewis and some of his closest friends. He also gave a lecture at New College.
This lecture was attended by Elisabeth Guensche and Carly Howell, two current Hillsdale students who have taken classes with Coupland. Both gave glowing reviews of the lecture.
“He was speaking about the moral imagination, and how, especially in children, it’s really important to exercise the moral imagination,” Howell said. “Someone can tell you that something is wrong and that you shouldn’t do it, but when you see characters in a story and you see the lessons played out before you, then you can put yourself in the characters’ shoes and actually learn lessons better that way.”
Guensche said she admires Coupland for his love of children’s literature.
“I think his passion for children’s literature especially comes across in the classroom, and kind of makes you love it too, and it’s just really fun,” Guensche said.
Coupland described his time at the Kilns as “the trip of a lifetime and a great experience.”
According to his students, he shares this same excitement and love for learning in the classroom every day.
“He’s one of my favorite teachers here, one of my favorite professors, and I can just tell that he genuinely cares about the students as people,” Howell said. “If you take his class you’re going to enjoy it.”