Journey to the Margins of the Real

"These tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water. [...] We have all read in scientific books, and, indeed, in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is."

G. K. Chesterton, "The Ethics of Elfland" in Orthodoxy

How magical is the city you live in? How fantastical is your neighborhood? How outrageously wild is your yard?

Chesterton wants to call us back to the realization that all of these things that we take for granted, on which we bestow the title "mundane," are in fact magnificently wild and magical. He wants us, for one second, to remember who we are: not beggars at the tale end of countless millenia of randomness, not accidental paupers scratching a living in the dirt, but beings of light and glory.

That is what this class is for. We will chase after princesses lighter than air and fall from our beds into another world where we will love a statue, and it is all in pursuit of something much more elusive than either of these: the vision to see the world as an enchanted place.

We will read novels and essays by such writers as George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, and J. R. R. Tolkien in pursuit of childlike hearts filled with wonder.

Fairies play at the edge of our awareness, the edge of our daily lives, the edge of our very thoughts. Turn to face them, and they have vanished: you can only look at them peripherally, out of the corners of your eyes. Join me as we squint at reality, using masterful and delightful stories as well as profoundly insightful essays as mirrors to bring those blurry shapes into focus. In so doing, we will learn much worth knowing about ourselves and the mystical world we inhabit.

Next offering TBD

Estimated Work Load: 100 pages / week

This class is for ages 18+
(For fairies classes for younger learners, go here)

$400 / student
included in the membership package

Also see our course at the Academy for Classical Teachers, which complements this course!

The Books!

  • Frederick Buechner, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale
  • Christina Rosetti, “Goblin Market”
  • Lord Dunsinay, The King of Elfland's Daughter
  • J.R.R. Tolkien, “Mythopoeia,” “Smith of Wooten Major,” and “On Fairy Stories”
  • George MacDonald, The Light Princess
  • G.K. Chesterton, “The Ethics of Elfland,” in Orthodoxy
  • J. M. Barrie, Dear Brutus
  • Ellen Kushner, Thomas the Rhymer
  • Eloise McGraw, The Moorchild
  • George MacDonald, Phantastes

Looking for more fairy content?

  • Junius Johnson's "Here Be Dragons" course is a wealth of beauty, wonder, and wisdom. It's not so much the wealth of a dragon's hoard, which (as we learned) is embedded with deadly greed and selfishness, but the wealth of the feast of Aslan's table or Galadriel's gift of seed and soil, a fruitful and life-giving abundance. Our discussions involved reflections on the meaning of "twilight" or forgotten spaces; the mystery of communion; the spiritual aspects of smell; the relationship between common sense and courage; the truths embedded in ancient songs; and other fascinating topics. This summer's study deepened my joy and curiosity as a reader and believer.

  • In working with and thinking about words as a full-time vocation, I found myself slightly stuck in a here and nowness that lacked imagination. Like the blind man that Jesus touched, who then saw “men as trees” — I was groping for clarity. Dr. Johnson’s course was the condition upon which I received a second touch from Christ that gave me fuller sight.

  • Participating in a course led by Dr. Junius Johnson is a wonderful journey of exploration, seeking hidden gems in unexpected places. It is an opportunity to learn to look deeper than the surface, both in reading and in the mundane of life. A delightful feast for the mind that lasts far beyond the actual banquet.

  • Dr. Johnson’s knowledge of theology, philosophy, and literature, combined with his engaging style of communication, make him an excellent intellectual guide. If you see fantasy as somewhat pointless or as something reserved for children, Dr. Johnson will correct your thinking. His class on dragons [...] deepened my appreciation for fantasy as a vehicle of truth and better equipped me with the perspective and hope that enable a person to face and bear hardship well.