C. S. Lewis in Context

C. S. Lewis in Context

C. S. Lewis in Context

C. S. Lewis in Context

Synopsis

"Although C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) achieved a level of popularity as a fiction writer, literary scholars have tended to view him as a minor figure working in an insignificant genre - science fiction - or have pigeon-holed him as a Christian apologist and moralist. In C. S. Lewis in Context, Doris T. Myers places his work in the literary milieu of his times and the public context of language rather than in the private realm of personal habits or relationships. A central debate early in the twentieth century concerned the nature of language: was it primarily objective and empirical, as Charles K. Ogden and Ivor A. Richards argued in The Meaning of Meaning, or essentially metaphorical and impressionistic, the approach of Owen Barfield in Poetic Diction? Lewis espoused the latter theory and integrated it into the purpose and style of his fiction. Myers therefore argues that he was not "out of touch with his time," as some critics claim, but a twentieth-century literary figure engaged in the issues of his day. By approaching Lewis's fiction through the linguistic controversies of his day, Myers not only develops a new framework within which to evaluate his works, but also clarifies his literary contributions. This valuable study will appeal to literary and linguistic scholars as well as to general enthusiasts of Lewis's fiction." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

In teaching and writing about medieval and renaissance literature, C. S. Lewis was concerned with reviving the works for modern readers by placing them in the context of their time. He made the works accessible by reconstructing the scientific knowledge, the word meanings, and the unspoken assumptions of these previous eras. in the process, he often pointed out that the early twentieth century would in turn become a "period" like all others. What Lewis foresaw has now happened. Much of what he took for granted has become quaint, old-fashioned, even alien to present-day readers. Many previous critics have discussed his work as an expression of relatively timeless Christian doctrine; others have discussed it as timeless mythmaking. But if Lewis is to speak to the twenty- first century, if the scope of his literary achievement is to be understood, it is time to examine his fiction in the context of its period, to state explicitly what early critics such as R. J. Reilly and Chad Walsh understood implicitly.

Even during his lifetime, his work was the subjectf master's and doctoral theses, and since his death in 1963 there has been a flood of articles and books on Lewis. But for most of the earliest critics, the interest was primarily in his defense of Christianity. His religious essays such as Mere Christianity were valued more than his fiction, and his fiction was valued more as Christian instruction than as literary art. Also, many of the earliest studies were "more hagiography than scholarship, more paraphrase than analysis" (Edwards 3). Such studies appealed primarily to people interested in Christianity and confirmed the impression of the mainstream literary critics that Lewis was "not literature" and not worthy of serious consideration.

Nevertheless, against all rules that nobody in court should be more than fourteen feet high, interest in Lewis continued to grow. His fiction was . . .

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