Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams

Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams

Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams

Shadows of Imagination: The Fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams

Synopsis

Now in its fourth printing, this standard critical anthology dealing with the big three among fantasy writers has been brought up to date through the addition of an Afterword discussing the book Tolkien considered his greatest work, the posthumously published The Silmarillion. Shadows of Imaginationconsists of essays by thirteen scholars who treat seriously the fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams have made the writing of fantasy a legitimate art. These writers, according to Mark Hillegas, editor of and contributor to this collection, have revived the ancient arts of epic and romance, have returned to the tradition created by the Odyssey, the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost,and Faust. Hillegas points out that although they often are compared with science-fiction writers, Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams do not write about science, never glorify the machine; instead, they fill a void, satisfy a human longing for a "myth to bring meaning again to the universe and human existence."

Excerpt

The fantasies of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams have a significance beyond their considerable intrinsic worth. A departure from the long-accepted norms of realistic fiction, they offer an index to a major shift in taste now under way. Another manifestation of this shift is the post-realism of those whom Robert Scholes calls the "fabulators" (writers like Murdoch, Nabokov, Barth), who also write a kind of fantasy. But unlike the fabulators, Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams are neither "comic allegorists" nor innovators in form and verbal technique. In a sense the work of Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams is a return to a mode of writing which has been around for centuries but which, looked at one way, fell from favor with the onset of "realism" in the nineteenth century, or, looked at another, declined in the eighteenth century when the novel replaced the previously dominant forms of the epic and romance. Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams are closer to the Odyssey, Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, or Faust than they are to the fabulators.

Fantasy never died entirely, in spite of its rejection by a majority of educated readers, writers, and critics. In the twentieth century it has survived in works ranging from the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs or the lowest levels of pulp science fiction to Kafka's Metamorphosis or the great anti-utopias (Zamyatin's We, Huxley's Brave New World, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four). Until recently, though, the kind of fantasy usually written by Lewis, Tolkien, and Williams (asdistinguished from the Robin . . .

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