Academic journal article Mythlore

The Lion in the Waste Land: Fearsome Redemption in the Works of C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and T.S. Eliot

Academic journal article Mythlore

The Lion in the Waste Land: Fearsome Redemption in the Works of C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and T.S. Eliot

Article excerpt

THE LION IN THE WASTE LAND: FEARSOME REDEMPTION IN THE WORKS OF C.S. LEWIS, DOROTHY L. SAYERS, AND T.S. ELIOT. Janice Brown. Kent, Ohio: Kent State UP, 2018. 290 pp. 9781606353387. $40.50.

IN THE FIRST CHAPTER OF THE LON IN THE WASTE LAND. Fearsome Redemption in the Work of C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, and T.S. Eliot, Janice Brown states that the purpose of her book "is to explore the complementary nature of what Lewis, Sayers, and Eliot had to say on a number of important subjects--subjects connected with central Christian doctrine of redemption through Christ" (Brown 3). It is a purpose that is well-articulated, thoroughly examined, and delivered in a style that is enjoyable to read. A good share of Brown's success can be attributed to the structure of the book. In brief, the first chapter explains how the three authors are connected to one another, while the second chapter narrows in on the struggle that each of the three authors faced in accepting their role as a literary prophet in mid-twentieth century modernity. With the common ground having been tilled, Chapters 3 through 8 offer what Brown refers to as "six frightening but redemptive extremities as they are illuminated in the works of Lewis, Sayers, and Eliot" (3). The ensuing six concerns, and their respective chapters, are: Chapter 3: a complete submission to Christ; Chapter 4: becoming a disciple; Chapter 5: disruption of an ordinary life; Chapter 6: learning to endure great suffering; Chapter 7: an arduous pilgrimage; and Chapter 8: facing the criticism of a hostile age.

The first chapter is grounded in what Brown identifies as "Three things that Lewis, Eliot, and Sayers had in common [...] Christian faith rooted in conservative Anglicanism, higher education in the humanities, and searing power with words" (4). Although much of what is covered in this chapter will be familiar to those who have read previous biographies of any one of the authors, Brown's critical analysis of the lives and works of each author is well-reasoned and estimable. This is clearly seen in the first half of the chapter in which the critical strife that existed between Lewis, the traditionalist, and Eliot, the figurehead of early twentieth century modernism, is scrutinized. Pointing out that "the negativity seems to have been largely on Lewis's side" (8), Brown demonstrates that Lewis's concern about the demise of traditional verse was not solely aimed at Eliot's fame. Directing our attention to consider what Lewis had to say in both his poetry and literary criticism (particularly so The Personal Heresy: A Controversy, co-authored with Cambridge critic E.M.W. Tillyard, and A Preface to Paradise Lost), Brown's eludication of Lewis's frustration with modernism, and his eventual reconciliation and friendship with Eliot, is very informative, offering a more expansive view on a renowned feud. Correspondingly so, Brown's commentary on the poetic and religious changes that Eliot experienced in the 1930s, leading to his eventual conversion and embrace of classical and Christo-centric themes, brings forward facts and subtleties that enhance our current understanding of what Eliot was experiencing at the time. Best of all Brown avoids the somewhat fashionable pessimism that occurs in many critiques of Eliot's conversion to and defense of Christianity, just as she steers away from sentimental idolization of Lewis as champion of an old school worldview. The latter half of the chapter is given to Sayer's acquaintance with both men. Appealing to their respective letters and other biographical sources, Brown does an excellent job of demonstrating how influential Sayers was in Lewis and Eliot's professional endeavors. When it comes to Lewis and Sayers, attention is given to their passion for evangelicalism, Dante, and their roles as authors. Likewise, Brown points out that Sayers and Eliot's relationship revolved around their shared commitment to utilize drama as a "major venue in proclaiming the message of redemption" (26). …

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