George MacDonald Bicentenary Conference 2024

Together with the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College, the George MacDonald Society is excited to announce a conference on MacDonald's 'Prophetic Imagination'. 2024 is the bicentenary of MacDonald's birth (1824-1905), and to celebrate this significant event and promote MacDonald's legacy we are planning an exciting three-day gathering (29-31 May 2024) which will include an evening lecture event with Malcolm Guite, panel discussions, and papers on various aspects of MacDonald's life and works, displays of MacDonald memorabilia and books, and artistic events that creatively respond to MacDonald's works. Attendees will also have the opportunity to see and use the Wade Center's extensive collection of MacDonald resources. This will be the first major conference on MacDonald in North America in over fifteen years--not one to miss!

The evening event at 7:30 pm on Thursday, May 30th 2024) with Mallcolm Guite is open to all - there is no need to register in advance.

Our Keynote Speakers

Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite (PhD, Durham) is the President of the George MacDonald Society. Life Fellow and former Chaplain at Girton College, Cambridge, he teaches and lectures internationally on theology, literature, and the arts – with MacDonald, Coleridge, and the Inklings as frequent features. Also a musician and a poet, Malcolm has published multiple anthologies, and many of his poems have been set to song. His current work – an Arthurian epic, Merlin’s Isle: The Grail Sequence – found some of its inspiration in Phantastes. Malcolm is especially interested in the imagination as a truth-bearing faculty, as evidenced in his most recent collection of short essays, Sounding Heaven and Earth (2023). Other of his publications include Faith, Hope and Poetry, Mariner: A Voyage with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Lifting the Veil: Imagination & the Kingdom of God.

Crystal Downing

Crystal Downing

Crystal Downing (PhD, California) is Co-Director of the Marion E. Wade Center and co-holder of the ‘Chair in Christian Thought’ at Wheaton, along with her husband David. (The Wade Center, our conference co-host, exists to promote the relevance of seven specific authors to cultural engagements of intellect, imagination, and faith: MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien, Sayers, Chesterton, Barfield, and Williams.) With a specialty in Victorian Literature from UCSB and previously the ‘Distinguished Professor of English and Film Studies’ at Messiah College, Crystal has published two award-winning books on Dorothy Sayers, four books on cultural theory that are required reading in colleges and seminaries around the world, and over a hundred essays (eight of which appear in critical editions of canonical British texts). Together she and David host The Wade Center Podcast. Her sixth book, on film, is forthcoming.

Trevor Hart

Trevor Hart

The Revd Canon Professor Trevor Hart is Rector of Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church, St Andrews and Canon Theologian of St Ninian's Cathedral, Perth. He was formerly Professor of Divinity and founding Director of the Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts in the University of St Andrews. Trevor's interest in George MacDonald dates back to an accidental discovery in the mid-1980s (story forthcoming!). In the years since he has supervised many dissertations on and relating to MacDonald -- beginning at his alma mater of Aberdeen in the early 1990’s -- in addition to contributing his own lectures and publications. Trevor continues to lecture internationally and publishes widely on the importance of imagination for Christian faith, ministry, and theology. His most recent publication is Confessing and Believing: The Apostles' Creed as Script for the Christian Life (Fortress, 2022).

Daniel Gabelman

Daniel Gabelman

Daniel Gabelman (PhD, St Andrews) is Head of English at King's Ely in Cambridge. He is the author of George MacDonald: Divine Carelessness and Fairytale Levity (Baylor UP; Mythopoeic Award Finalist) and the academic representative of the George MacDonald Society. He is currently co-editing two volumes of essays on MacDonald: one will be available for the first time at the Wheaton conference (Unsaying the Commonplace: George MacDonald and the Critique of Convention, co-edited with Amanda Vernon, Winged Lion Press) while the other (The Cambridge Companion to George MacDonald, co-edited with John Patrick Pazdziora) will help bring MacDonald into the mainstream of academic teaching and discourse. As a defender of light and playful things, he is also co-editing a new series with Cambridge UP on 'Doodles and Doodling' and has a forthcoming book in this series entitled Literary Doodling (2024).

Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca Reynolds

Rebecca K. Reynolds (Tennessee, USA) is a classical educator of high school rhetoric, philosophy, and literature, whose MA was in Storytelling/Oral Literature. She is currently nearing the completion of a text-faithful prose rendering of Spenser’s entire epic The Faerie Queen (illustrated by Inklings artist Justin Gerard). A poet, essayist, and the author of Courage Dear Heart: Letters for a Weary World, Rebecca has also narrated over fifty classic text audiobooks -- including Phantastes, Lilith, and At The Back of the North Wind. As lyricist for musicians such as Ron Block of Alison Krauss and Union Station, and regular contributor for Rabbit Room and Story Warren, Rebecca has the opportunity to play with words and culture for a broad audience. She is a featured speaker for multiple Faith & Arts conferences and podcasts, both in the US and the UK.

John Patrick Pazdziora

John Pazdziora

John Patrick Pazdziora (Ph.D., St Andrews) is project assistant professor at the Center for Global Education at The University of Tokyo. He researches Scottish literature in the long nineteenth century and children’s cultures, with emphasis on the interplay between literature and theology. His recent projects include a JSPS KAKENHI grant to examine how portrayals of disability in Victorian children’s literature function as a form of subversive theological discourse. John is the author of Haunted Childhoods in George MacDonald (Brill, 2020) and editor of Christianity in Scottish Literature (Scottish Literature International, 2023). Together with Joshua Richards, he is currently preparing a new critical edition of George MacDonald’s fairy tales for Oxford World’s Classics. He is also co-editing The Cambridge Companion to George MacDonald with Daniel Gabelman.

photo credit: Thomas Brauer

Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson

Conference "Gaitherer"

Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson

Kirstin Jeffrey Johnson (PhD, St Andrews) is a MacDonald scholar who also stewards a farm and ecology site in the Ottawa Valley, Canada. She writes and lectures internationally on MacDonald, the 19th century, Inklings, and Faith & the Arts. Co-editor of Informing the Inklings (Mythopoeic Award finalist), she has assisted numerous ‘MacDonald & Inklings’ translation projects, and written introductions to such works as the new graphic novel of The Golden Key and the illustrated Lilith. Kirstin directs the ‘Theology, Ecology, & the Arts’ programmes of Windstone Linlathen, is on the Advisory Boards of journals VII and NorthWind, the Board of the C.S. Lewis & Kindreds Society of Eastern & Central Europe, and is co-chair of the George MacDonald Society.

Other confirmed presenters include

Andrew Peterson, Julie Canlis, Chelle Stearns, Brenton Dickieson, Sarah Emtage, Michael Phillips, and Molly Z to name but a few.

Conference Registration

Registrations closed Midnight (Central Time) on Sunday May 12th, 2024. For cancelations after this date a 50% non-refundable fee applies.

We have now set up a waiting list in case there are any last minute cancellations. If you would like to be added to this please email us at


  • Accommodation at Wheaton College is in twin shared rooms (some bunks). If you are registering as an individual rather than a couple we will endeavour to be sensitive in allocating shared accommodation. Please let us know if you have a preference for who you would like to share with and we will do our best to accommodate although we cannot guarantee.

  • For those staying in the on-campus accommodation, check-in is during registration on Wednesday, 29th May 2024, with check-out on Saturday, 1st June 2024 before 10:30 am. You will need to make your own arrangements outside these dates (see update below).

  • Registration is between 12 noon and 1:30 pm on Wednesday. The conference ends Friday.

  • All delegates must be over 18 unless specifically agreed with us in advance.

  • Friday evening, after the main sessions have ended, we are planning to have an informal, relaxed, fun event for those (the majority we hope) sticking around.

  • Bedding is included, but please note there are limited facilities for cooking or making hot drinks provided in the onsite accommodation.

  • No smoking or alcohol is allowed anywhere on the campus or accommodation.

Meals included are

  • Dinner - Wednesday, 5/29/2024
  • Breakfast (if staying onsite), Lunch, Dinner - Thursday, 5/30/2024
  • Breakfast (if staying onsite), Lunch - Friday, 5/31/2024

Apart from breakfast, the above meals are included for all conference delegates. Everyone will need to make their own arrangements for Dinner on Friday, before we reconvene for an informal event later in the evening. Please make us aware in advance if you have any special dietary needs.

To assist us in our planning for the conference, when you register please also complete this Google form.

Google Form

This will specifically ask:

  1. Delegates name (may be different from what is shown on PayPal)
  2. Do you have any serious food allergies of which we should be aware?
  3. Campus Dining provides options for Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-free diets. Please tick the box for Vegetarian/Vegan meals if that is your preference. 
  4. If you are staying in College accommodation and intend to share your room with a specific person, please indicate that here (request must be made from both registrants).
  5. Do you have any questions, special needs, and is there anything else you think we should know?

Please complete one form for each person attending.


The Wade have received a number of inquiries from George MacDonald conference participants who are hoping to arrive early or stay late to utilise the Wade for their own research purposes. Unfortunately, the Wade are unable to accommodate any extra nights in the standard conference housing. The only real option on campus is the Harbor House (information about which is also posted on the Wade Center's website), but they have now reached capacity for the nights immediately before and after the conference. The best option for those wishing to access the collection before or after the conference is to check out their Travel Portal, with the closest hotel being the Holiday Inn in Carol Stream. Wheaton College have negotiated a discount and we can let you have details of this on request. Please note, however, that this is some distance from the college and would probably require your own transport.

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