A Bibliography on C.S. Lewis and Gender (Secondary Sources)

Gender in C.S. Lewis Bibliography by Brenton Dickieson*

Adey, Lionel.  “How Far Did Lewis Change Over Time?” The Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal 93.1 (1998): 5–13. See also his C.S. Lewis: Writer, Dreamer, and Mentor. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

Barkman, Adam. “‘All is Righteousness and there is no Equality’: C.S. Lewis on Gender and Justice.” Christian Scholar’s Review (2007): 415-436.

—. The Philosophical Christianity of C.S. Lewis: Its Sources, Content, and Formation. Thesis. Amsterdam: Vrije Universiteit, 2009.

—. “‘We Must Go Back to Our Bibles’: A Reply to Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen.” Christian Scholar’s Review (2007): 445-453.

—.“C.S. Lewis: Sexist and Masculine Idolater?” Inklings-Jahrbuch für Literatur und Ästhetik 26 (2008): 158–72.

Bartels, Gretchen. “Of Men and Mice: C.S. Lewis on Male-Female Interactions.” Literature & Theology 22, No. 3 (September 2008): 324-338.

Bremer, John. “From Despoina to Diotima: The Mistress of C.S. Lewis.” The Lewis Legacy 61 (Summer 1994): 6-18. Online: http://instituteofphilosophy.org/c-s-lewis/233/

Brown, Devin. “Are The Chronicles of Narnia Sexist and Racist?”. Keynote Address at The 12th Annual Conference of The C. S. Lewis and Inklings Society, Calvin College, March 28, 2009. Web. 15 July 2011. http://www.narniaweb.com/resourceslinks/are-the-chronicles-of-narnia-sexist-and-racist/. 

Burrus, Alicia D. Gender Differentiation and Gender Hierarchy in C.S. Lewis. University Honors Program Thesis. GA: Georgia Southern University, 2014.

Carnell, Corbin Scott. “The Meaning of Masculine and Feminine in the Work of C.S. Lewis.” Modern British Literature 2 (1977): 153–59.

Chance, Jane. Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016.

Christopher, Joe R. “Gender Hierarchies and Lowerarchies: A Response to Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen and Adam Barkman.” Christian Scholar’s Review 36, no. 4 (Summer 2007): 461-468.

Croft, Janet Brennan, and Leslie Donovan, editors. Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Altadena, CA: Mythopoeic Press, 2015.

Curtis, Carolyn, and Mary Pomroy Key, editors. Women and C.S. Lewis: What His Life and Literature Reveal for Today’s Culture. Oxford: Lion Books, 2015.

Deschene, James Michael. Joy in a Minor Key: The Mystery of Gender and Sex in the Thought of C.S. Lewis. Dissertation, University of Rhode Island, 1991. No copy, part of intro in

Emerson, David. “Innocence as a Super-Power: Little Girls on the Hero’s Journey.” Mythlore 28, nos. 1-2 (Fall/Winter 2009): 131–47.

Eros, Paul. “‘A Different Lens’: Gender Studies and the Inklings.” Femspec 5, No. 1 (2004): 283.

Filmer, Kath. The Fiction of C.S. Lewis: Mask and Mirror. London: Macmillan, 1993.

Fredrick, Candice, and Sam McBride. “Battling the Woman Warrior: Females and Combat in Tolkien and Lewis.” Mythlore 35, No. 3/4 (2007): 29-42.

—. Women Among the Inklings: Gender, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. London: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Fife, Ernelle. “Wise Warriors in Tolkien, Lewis, and Rowling.” Mythlore 25, nos.1-2 (2006): 147-162.

Frenschkowski, Helena. “Women in Love—Spirits in Bondage? Geschlecht und Weiblichkeit in C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces.” Inklings-Jahrbuch 16 (1998): 180-98.

Fry, Karin. “No Longer a Friend of Narnia: Gender in Narnia.” In The Chronicles of Narnia and Philosophy, edited by Gregory Bassham and Jerry L. Walls, 155-166. Chicago: Open Court, 2005.

Gibbons, Stella. “Imaginative Writing.” In Light on C.S. Lewis, edited by Jocelyn Gibb, 86–101. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1965.

Glyer, Diana Pavlac. “‘We are All Fallen Creatures and All Very Hard to Live With’: Some Thoughts on Lewis and Gender.” Christian Scholar’s Review 36, no. 4 (Summer 2007): 477–483.

Goldthwaite, John. The Natural History of Make-Believe: A Guide to the Principal Works of Britain, Europe, and America. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996.

Graham, Jean E. “Women, Sex, and Power: Circe and Lilith in Narnia.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 29 (2004): 32–44.

Hannay, Margaret Patterson. “C.S. Lewis: Mere Misogyny?” Daughters of Sarah 1, no. 6 (Sep. 1975): 1–4.

—. “‘Surprised by Joy’: C.S. Lewis’ Changing Attitudes Toward Women.” Mythlore 4, no. 1 (1976): 15–20.

Hardy, Elizabeth Baird. Milton, Spenser and The Chronicles of Narnia: Literary Sources for the C.S. Lewis Novels. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.

Henthorne, Susan C. The Image of Woman in the Fiction of C.S. Lewis. Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo, 1985.

Hilder, Monika B. “The Foolish Weakness in C.S. Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy: A Feminine Heroic.” SEVEN: An Anglo-American Literary Review 19 (2002): 77–90.

—. The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Studies in Twentieth-Century British literature 10. New York: Peter Lang, 2012.

—. The Gender Dance: Ironic Subversion in C. S. Lewis’s Cosmic Trilogy. Studies in Twentieth-Century British Literature 11. New York: Peter Lang, 2013.

—. Surprised by the Feminine: A Rereading of C. S. Lewis and Gender. Studies in Twentieth-Century British Literature 12. New York: Peter Lang, 2013.

Hopkins, Lisa. “Female Authority Figures in the Works of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.” Mythlore 20.2 (1995): 364–66.

Humphrey, Edith. “Sacrament and Essence, Masculine and Feminine,” ch. 9 in Further Up and Further in: Orthodox Conversations with C.S. Lewis on Scripture. Yonkers, NY: St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2017.

Jones, Karla Faust. “Girls in Narnia: Hindered or Human?” Mythlore 13, no. 3 (1987): 15-19.

King, Don W. “Introduction to the Colloquium Issue: C.S. Lewis and Gender: “Positively Medieval?” Christian Scholar’s Review 36, no. 4 (Summer 2007): 387-390.

Leyland, Margaret M. “Lewis and the Schoolgirls.” The Lamp-Post of the Southern California C.S. Lewis Society 1, no. 3 (July 1977): 1-2.

Lindskoog, Kathryn. “C.S. Lewis: Reactions from Women.” Mythlore 3, no. 4 (1976): 18–20.

—. “Sex.” The C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia. Eds. Schultz, Jeffrey D. and John G.West, Jr., 429. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

—.“Women.” In The C.S. Lewis Readers’ Encyclopedia, edited by Jeffrey D. Schultz and John G. West, Jr., 429. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.

Loades, Ann. “C.S. Lewis on Gender.” Priscilla Papers 24.1 (Winter 2010): 19–24.

—. “On Gender.” In The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis, edited by Robert MacSwain and Michael Ward, 150-173. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

McSporran, Cathy. “Daughters of Lilith: Witches and Wicked Women in the Chronicles of Narnia.” In Revisiting Narnia: Fantasy, Myth and Religion in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles, edited by Shanna Cuaghey, 191-204. Dallas: Benbella Books, 2005.

Michel, Laura. “Politically Incorrect: Tolkien, Women, and Feminism,” in Tolkien and Modernity, Vol. 1, edited by Frank Winreich and Thomas Honegger, 55-76. Bochum and Jena, Germany: Walking Tree, 2006.

Miller, Jennifer L. “No Sex in Narnia? How Andersen’s “Snow Queen” Problematizes Lewis’s Narnia.” Mythlore 28, nos. 1-2 (Fall/Winter 2009): 113–30.

Myers, Doris. “Brave New World: The Status of Women according to Tolkien, Lewis, and Williams.” Cimarron Review 17 (Oct. 1971): 13–19.

Myers, Doris. C.S. Lewis in Context. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 1994.

—.“Lewis in Genderland.” Christian Scholar’s Review 34, no. 4 (Summer 2007): 455-460.

Neuleib, Janice Witherspoon. “Love’s Alchemy: Jane in That Hideous Strength.” Mythlore 7, no. 1 (March 1980): 16–17.

Patterson, Nancy-Lou. “Guardaci Ben: The Visionary Woman in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and That Hideous Strength.” Mythlore 6, no. 3 (1979): 6–10 and Mythlore 6, no. 4 (1979): 20–24.

—. “The Unfathomable Feminine Principle: Images of Wholeness in That Hideous Strength.” The Lamp-Post of the Southern California C.S. Lewis Society 9 (1986): 3-39.

Poe, Harry Lee. “Lewis and the Ladies.” Christian Scholar’s Review 36, no. 4 (Summer 2007): 469-76.

Ribe, Neil. “That Glorious Strength: Lewis on Male and Female.” CSL: The Bulletin of the New York C.S. Lewis Society 14, No. 1 (1982): 1-9.

Scudder Jr., John, and Anne Bishop. “C. S. Lewis Surprised and Humanized by Joy.” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 48.1 (2009): 74-78.

Swift, Jennifer. “‘A More Fundamental Reality than Sex’: C.S. Lewis and the Hierarchy of Gender.” Chronicle: Of the Oxford University C. S. Lewis Society 5, no. 1 (Feb. 2008): 5–26.

Van Leeuwen, Mary Stewart. “The Anti-Reductionist: C.S. Lewis, Science, and Gender Relations.” The C.S. Lewis Lecture at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga on March 29, 2004.

—. Gender and Grace: Love, Work and Parenting in a Changing World. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1990.

—. “A Sword Between the Sexes: C.S. Lewis’s Long Road to Gender Equality.” Christian Scholar’s Review 36, No. 4 (2007): 391-414.

—. “What Did Lewis Say, and When Did He Say It? A Reply to Adam Barkman.” Christian Scholar’s Review 36, no. 4 (Summer 2007): 437-444.

—. A Sword Between the Sexes: C.S. Lewis and the Gender Debates. Grand Rapids: BrazosPress, 2010.

Zettle, “Why I Love Narnia.” Revisiting Narnia: Fantasy, Myth and Religion in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles, edited by Shanna Caughey, 181–90. Dallas, TX: BenBella, 2005.

*With significant help by Jenn R.

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C.S. Lewis’s “To love at all is to be vulnerable” Infographic by Gavin Aung Than

I am having an open class on “C.S. Lewis, Gender, and The Four Loves” tonight (you are welcome to join, but must sign up here). In returning to the text, I was reminded by a student of a cartoon infographic by an artist that captures the “To love at all is to be vulnerable” moment in the Agape lecture of The Four Loves:

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one and nothing, not even an animal. You must carefully wrap it round with hobbies and little luxuries and routine and avoidances of entanglement, and then lock it up in the casket or coffin of your own selfishness. And this means that in the long run, the alternative to tragedy, or at least to the threat of tragedy, is damnation, for in that casket – safe, still, and unventilated in the darkness – it will go bad; not broken, but finally unbreakable, impenetrable, resistant to all good and joy….

This passage is pretty similar in the book and the original lecture series. It’s intriguing to me that Lewis exchanges “resistant to all good and joy” for the word “irredeemable.” It is a profound theological difference–and perhaps the key question in Lewis’ book, The Great Divorce.

The artist here, Gavin Aung Than, chooses to follow the text for the most part, making a bit of a shift in order and word choice here and there. It is better than the vast majority of the quote posters about C.S. Lewis on social media–misquotes that have inspired William O’Flaherty‘s The Misquotable C.S. Lewis. I also wish the story wasn’t about boy-girl relationships with the stereotypical brute-male/hurt-girl/saviour-boy story. Lewis is here trying to talk about any love, whether for partner, friend, and family–or even country, hobby, pet, or God. But I suppose it is a story that is common enough to highlight the basic idea: Love is Risk. I think this is profoundly true.The original file here, and here is a version of Lewis’ lecture on “Agape” with some illustration by C.S. Lewis Doodle.

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“What the dwarves started to sing…,” a Word Study by Sparrow

I’ve pointed out before Sparrow’s digital humanities project on J.R.R. Tolkien‘s works. In particular, Sparrow has been working through the Hobbit, drawing out trends in the occurrences of words. Even in basic indexing, concordance work, and text scraping, there are neat discoveries that help us read better. Now Sparrow has done enough of this digital work to blog an entire poem with the text links. Sparrow has completed work on the “Chip the glasses and crack the plates!” bit with the dwarfs. It is a great milestone and good service to humanity (and good good service to some non-human races), that I thought I would share it with you, dear readers.

And if I might add something to extend our enjoyment, a couple of clips. The first is J.R.R. Tolkien‘s own little version of the jig. I don’t know the source of the clip, but it may be something from the BBC or from the recordings at George Sayer‘s house. The second clip is from the first Peter Jackson Hobbit film, a chant song in dwarfen style that would drive all good homemakers to distraction!

words that you were saying

This morning, I celebrate reaching the goal of even one poem thoroughly concordanced:

[01.064] Chip the glasses and crack the plates!
Blunt the knives and bend the forks!
That’s what BilboBagginshates
Smash the bottles and burn the corks!

[01.065] Cut the cloth and tread on the fat!
Pour the milk on the pantryfloor!
Leave the bones on the bedroommat!
Splash the wine on every door!

[01.066] Dump the crocks in a boilingbowl;
Pound them up with a thumpingpole;
And when you’ve finished, if any are whole,
Send them down the hall to roll!

[01.067] That’s what BilboBagginshates!
So, carefully! carefully with the plates!

Not bad at all. I have left out:

  • The – 13 times
  • And – 5 times
  • On – 4 times
  • A – 2…

View original post 65 more words

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C.S. Lewis, Gender, and The Four Loves: An Open Class (Tues, Sep 17, 7pm Eastern)

C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves is a book that is building in popularity. My original review of the book 8 years ago remains one of the top posts on this blog, and I have returned to the ideas again and again. I still think he says some important and powerful things about friendship, and I think his main thesis is right, that agape love–divine, unconditional love–fills out, lifts up, and perfects all other kinds of natural love.

While there are limitations to the book–it really is a pretty ad hoc exploration of ideas, an expansion of a lecture series and the fruit of a couple of decades of thought–I like the use of different kinds of love enough to build a literature class around it. This fall I am teaching at Signum University a class called “C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love and Sex.” In this masters-level course, I use C.S. Lewis’ concept of four loves to structure a course about the great myths at the foundation of our culture. Ranging from the ancient world until now, these are the moments where stories of friendship, love, sex, marriage, fidelity, and devotion have intersected with the hinges of history. With great students and a strong reading list (see below), it has already promised to be a great semester.

But there are clearly some limitations in the course. One is the deeply Christian nature of The Four Loves. Students from other traditions and with other worldviews will need to do some adjusting to get value out of the book. Another point is that Lewis makes some comments about gender and sexuality–including homosexuality and marriage–that sound strange or even troublesome to today’s ears. Yet it is a uniquely situated book, written not long after Lewis had fallen in love, and written in conversation with Joy Davidman.

There is no area of Lewis’ life and thought that is more scrutinized than that of gender and sexuality. Yet the conversation is worth having. So we are opening up the Signum classroom a little wider this coming Tuesday, inviting you to join us for a discussion about Lewis & Gender. As a Lewis scholar, I can speak to his lifetime of thought on the matter; as Lewis readers, you can bring your own questions, critiques, and curiosities. I also think that this discussion can make us sharper as readers and challenge our own assumptions (i.e., biases) when we read.

The discussion is open and free, Tues, Sep 17, 7pm Eastern. You can sign up here. I’ve left details about the class below, for those interested.

About Signum University

Signum University believes education should be accessible, dynamic, and affordable. Signum is committed to establishing a completely virtual campus that will cultivate fruitful intellectual exchange between students and teachers, prolific vocational growth for our staff, and a vibrant academic community among our students.

Signum University and Mythgard Institute offer a unique digital campus environment in which students all over the world can engage throughout the course. Each class encourages rigorous academic conversation through multiple points of instruction and dialogue. Classes are available as part of the MA program, or as an inexpensive audit.

  • The Signum Classroom provides a convenient interface for live, direct interaction with instructors
  • A Class Forum provides a place for students and instructors to hold in-depth conversations about class-related topics
  • Discussion Sections offer a moderated setting where M.A. students can talk with each other on a weekly basis
  • Lecturer and preceptor Office Hours allow further conference opportunities to ask questions, clarify ideas, and present paper topics

C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love and Sex (Fall 2019): Course Description

Taught by Brenton Dickieson

This course explores some of the great mythologies of love that provide a background to today’s culture. Sketched out along the twin paths of C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves and a chronological development of the idea of romantic love, we explore foundational stories of love, sex, fidelity and betrayal, romance, loss, marriage, and divine and devotional love.

This treatment of love and sex has six movements. In the prologue we ask questions about the conversations of sex and love today, we begin in the civilizational nursery by looking at some of the ideas of love in ancient Mediterranean cultures. As we move into the first chapter, we look at the emergence of Greek and Jewish understanding of love, and the Christian idea of agape, or unconditional love.

In the second chapter, we will see the development—and in some cases a recovery—of the myth of romantic love in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, including themes of devotional, courtly, forbidden, and erotic loves, as well as the forms of storytelling that blended them all. Once love stories have shed their allegorical undertones, Shakespeare is an accessible starting point to discuss the place of romantic love in culture. Shakespeare is in this way the inventor of the modern romantic tradition, though his work suggests an inversion of that tradition. While Goethe captures romantic love in all its poignancy, we see Jane Austen’s inversive mind expand the theme, and turn to the four loves with a powerful cultural treatment in Pride & Prejudice.

In chapter three we turn to familial loves. Perhaps no more rapid change in relationships has come in the family loves, particularly those between parents and children. We will read pieces that suggest that the reassertion of this parental love makes for new problems as romantic, religious, and vocational love sit in uncomfortable tension with that earliest of all loves. Problematizing parental love, then, serves as an opportunity to return to the messages and stories of love in culture today.

Chapter four’s consideration of friendship love leaves us in a difficult situation. Though popular culture is beset with friends on facebook and television, the deep traditions of friendship are largely lost to us. So we turn to some children’s literature to discuss this almost forgotten love.

As an epilogue to the class, we ask some questions about love and culture today. Are we really in a renewed romanticism? What is love in a digital age? What happens when love fails—or when the mythologies of love fail? Which is the most important of the loves? We will close by returning to an ancient theme of “calling,” meant to open questions as to where the reader sits in the world.

Course Schedule

Prologue: Who Did Write the Book of Love?

Week 1: “Art is a Lie Which Makes us Realize the Truth”

    • Read: Tolkien, “Mythopoeia,” Genesis 1 – 3, Lewis, The Four Loves
    • Watch: The Princess Bride
    • Recommended: Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories,” Lady in the Water Mr Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, 1980s Brat Pack films

Week 2: Introduction to Love, Religion, and Mythology

    • Read: Song of Solomon; Lewis, The Four Loves
    • Recommended: The Epic of Gilgamesh; Homer, The IliadThe Odyssey; the Cupid and Psyche cycle in Books 4 – 6 of The Golden Ass

Chapter One: The Emergence of Agape

Week 3: Greek and Christian Inventions of Love

Chapter Two: The Establishment (and Inversion?) of Eros

Week 4: Form, Flesh and Fidelity: The Art of Courtly Love

    • Read: Selections from The Letters of Abelard & Héloïse; Patristic and Medieval Writings handout; Selections from Lewis, The Allegory of Love
    • Recommended: Malory, Le Morte d’Arthur; Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love

Week 5: Shakespeare: The Invention (and Inversion?) of Romantic Love

    • Read: Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Sonnets handout
    • Recommended: Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet

Week 6: Goethe and the Romantic Tradition

    • Read: The Sorrows of Young Werther
    • Recommended: Orlando

Week 7: Jane Austen and the Change of the Heart

Chapter Three: The Problem of Storge

Week 8: The Forbidden Love of Asher Lev

    • Read: Potok, My Name is Asher Lev

Week 9: When Love is No Better than Hate

Chapter Four: Can We Recover Philia?

Week 11: Where did Friendship Go?

HarperCollins Signature EditionEpilogue: Love and the Cosmos

Week 12: Plastic Bodies and Broken Hearts: Myths of Love Today

    • Read: Coelho, The Alchemist
    • Watch: Lars and the Real GirlEasy A
    • Recommended: Lewis, A Grief Observed


Most of these books are widely available in local libraries or in inexpensive editions. Any edition of the books is fine. Translation in parentheses; it is okay to choose a different translation. In some cases, handouts will be provided in class, as noted below.

We’ve linked to free online resources where possible. Where no legally free version is available, links point to the Amazon page where a copy of the text may be purchased. Purchases made through these links help Signum University at no additional cost to you.

Required Texts

Required Films

Suggested Works

Note: Course schedules, texts and other details are subject to change. Upon enrolling, students should refer to the syllabus and Moodle course page for the most current information.

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L.M. Montgomery on the Love of Trees, and Hurricane Dorian

L.M. Montgomery simply loved trees. Her journals are filled with notes about trees–the beauty of landscape, like “the groves of maple and birch just turning to scarlet and gold” (Sep 25, 1889), or the desire to disappear and run “down to my favorite old spot under a big maple tree in the old school woods” (Feb 18, 1890). Her “dear old woods” are key to Montgomery’s growing up, both for beauty–“all shadowy nooks, carpeted with moss, or paths with ferns and wildflowers nodding along them … smiling through the traceries of the spruce boughs, or explored by the eye the intersecting glades … and ferny depths” (May 6, 1890)–but also critical for her sense of space, especially her home in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island (the real-life behind Avonlea).

Trees defined Montgomery’s sense of home, but also her sense of otherness:

“There was a heavy white frost to-night and this morning the town looked beautiful. All the trees were dreams of mist, looking as if a breath would demolish them, and across the river the forest looked like fairyland” (Jan 26, 1891).

Montgomery‘s classic work, Anne of Green Gables is, of course, filled with the love of trees. Mrs. Rachel Lynde begins the story by saying that “trees aren’t much company,” but Anne changes all of that. When she finds her way to Green Gables, she names the trees–as L.M. Montgomery did herself in her journals.

And then, of course, there is “the Avenue”–not just kind of pretty, but “the White Way of Delight.”

Emily from Emily of New Moon is also a namer of trees as part of her mystical negotiation of her world. It begins more mundane than Anne’s “Snow Queen” with Emily’s “Adam” and “Eve,” but trees are part of her transport to the land of faërie:

“the fairies of the white clover and satin catkins, the little green folk of the grass, the elves of the young fir-trees, sprites of wind and wild fern and thistledown. Anything might happen there–everything might come true” (Emily of New Moon, ch. 1).

Trees were such an essential part of Montgomery’s imaginary landscape. As they helped her transcend the normal and sometimes terribly parts of her life and allow her to walk in the ways of wonderland, so they are part of the magic that helps us as readers fall in love with her characters and walk with them in real-life lands of fantasy.

So it is sad news this week to hear that the passage of Hurricane Dorian by our province has brought great destruction to L.M. Montgomery’s family home. Descendent and caretaker of Montgomery’s original homestead, David Macneil estimates that 80% of the trees on the property were damaged or destroyed. As a lover of trees and as reader of Montgomery–and as someone who grew up in the same community, playing in her graveyard and her church–was moving to hear him describe his heartbreak.

It is okay to mourn the death of trees, I think. I don’t know that the “greats” of the 20th century tell us this, whether Ernest Hemmingway, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Platt, Doris Lessing, or Hunter S. Thompson lead us there or not. But the authors I love best–Tolkien and Lewis and Montgomery–they know what trees really are. Tolkien talked somewhere in “On Fairy-stories” that “the proper languages of birds and beasts and trees … is much nearer to the true purposes of Faerie.” Montgomery would have agreed, without every losing the homey, rootedness of trees:

“Emily was always glad that she lived where there were many trees–old ancestral trees, planted and tended by hands long dead, bound up with everything of joy and sorrow that visited the lives in their shadows” (Emily’s Quest, ch. 2).

I am glad, then, to hear that one old tree survived the storm, a century-old apple tree, perhaps a young sapling in one of Montgomery’s visits home. You can read the CBC news story of the Montgomery’s homestead and Hurrican Dorian here, where I found the pictures. I wish them all the best in the cleanup.

I’ll leave you with a little clip, a Canadian Heritage Minute, which was how us younger Canadians learned about history growing up.


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Stephen Colbert, Anderson Cooper, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien & Me: Thoughts on Grief (Friday Feature)

I was struck by this interview between Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert on Grief. Youtube gave this to me because of the J.R.R. Tolkien link, I think, after watching a lecture by Tom Shippey. Weird link, but the Youtube algorithm has become terrible. Still, I was curious, because I knew that Colbert had lost his father and a couple of brothers when he was ten (in a plane crash), and I lost my father and brother at fourteen (in a fire). What I didn’t know was that Anderson Cooper also lost his father at that age (I don’t really know anything about him, but he is clearly a great dresser).

While the interview was a sidebar as I was organizing a folder, I was soon drawn in. I don’t know Cooper’s work, but I was moved by his openness and willingness to share his pain and grief at the recent loss of his mother. What was particularly intriguing, to me, was Colbert sharing his framework of pain, suffering, loss, and the gifts of God from his Catholic perspective. “What Punishments of God Are Not Gifts?” Colbert asks–a quotation that clearly rocked Cooper and a truly counter-cultural thing to say. But Colbert presses the point, offering some measure of hope to listeners. He also, readers will be pleased to hear, links this perspective to Tolkien’s Christian faith and embedded ideas in The Lord of the Rings and the Middle-earth legendarium. Reading Tolkien and SciFi brought him through his teenage years after his father died.

In sharing this interview, I also want to share a mini-lecture I did on C.S. Lewis‘ A Grief Observed, offered as I was working through my mother’s premature death. What Colbert offers (with Tolkien) in general hope and pain, I hope I can give some structure to (with Lewis) in response and recovery.

Oh, and this just because it’s funny!

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I Passed my Viva!

I am very pleased to announce that I have successfully defended my PhD at the University of Chester! The viva voce was strong, with critical feedback and some verbal sparring. Overall, though, it was a great experience, with some levity and a little fun! I have minor corrections, but I am feeling good about finishing those up well within the time frame this fall.

I want to say “thank you” to so many people, near and far, digital and in real life, friend and foe, teacher and student–so many who have encouraged me, challenged me, and believed that this was a worthwhile cause. Thank you all.

I said the other day that a PhD is a “ten-year ageing app.” Too true. I am weary and remained pressed as the school term is beginning and I have both a publication deadline and a grant deadline this month. I told my son that I was experiencing what Bilbo experienced in the title of ch. 6 of The Hobbit. “Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire!” he cried. And then, “oh, right.” In my case, it is not really moving from trouble to trouble, but from life-defining pressure to life-defining pressure–good things, no less as transformative than adventures, and exchanging swords for deadlines. So I may take a few weeks to find my blogging pattern again. As I have said, I am doing some occasional pieces on immigration, and planning a Narnia series in the winter and another L.M. Montgomery series in the spring.

However, until then, many minor deadlines will be missed, many thank you notes will remain unwritten, and many great ideas will remain secreted in locked files. But I do hope to emerge. Meanwhile, here is some information about the thesis, which is titled:

“The Great Story on Which the Plot Turns”:
Cruciformity in C.S. Lewis’ Narrative Spiritual Theology

I include the abstract below. I argue that there is an image that was central to C.S. Lewis’ conversion, and that image orients his entire thought process about life. The image is death and resurrection, patterned in the cross as a way that we are to live. When we refocus our lens of reading Lewis upon his vision of spiritual life–rather than, specifically, Lewis as apologist or critic or whatever party people want to align him with–we can see this image not just in his Christian teaching, but in the heart of his fiction and even his approach to literary theory and cultural criticism. It is this idea, I believe, that integrates all of Lewis’ thought.

I have some clarifying and precision work to do, but at some point, this will be a book–either in a dissertation series or rewritten for more popular audiences. We will see!

The Deets

  • 73 months since I first registered to the time I submitted in May, though I began “pretending” I was in a PhD in August 2011, which was 2,884 days ago; that means I will have been at this for 8 years to the point of my defence date
  • 110,269 words including bibliography and front matter; 99,969 words of body text
  • 279 pages at A4/1.5 space; 348 pages at 8.5×11/2 space
  • 1,334 footnotes; 445 bibliographic entries–92 of which are C.S. Lewis’ materials
  • 6 chapters (I didn’t count the sections) made up of 2,579 paragraphs

The Dedication and the Blog

I will wait until I have finally finished all the detail work and paperwork before I share the full dedication, but I wanted to say that I included you readers in my brief dedication. I really have used this blog to test out my ideas, knowing that if I haven’t clarified my ideas in writing them, the audience of book fans, scholars, and students who read this blog would work on my blunt edges. I mention some of the senior scholars in Inklings studies who have reached out to me personally for support, but also this “strange” blog that I write. Some of my colleagues have looked at part or all of the thesis, and I thank them, but then I note some people–some of you–who have read parts or all the thesis:

“the online forum at A Pilgrim in Narnia, which I have used as a thesis sandbox over the years. Others in that community have also read portions or all of this thesis, including David, Yvonne, and Dana—who revealed all of my typographical oddities.”

Thanks so much, folks, for your strong reading and thinking.

The Outline

The thesis has six chapters. I’ve included the Table of Contents below, and I probably should have split the conclusion, but here’s the outline:

  1. Introduction: Cruciform Spirituality in the Works of C.S. Lewis
  2. Where the Secret of Secrets Lies Hid: C.S. Lewis as Spiritual Theologian
  3. “Die Before You Die”: C.S. Lewis’ Logic of Cruciformity
  4. The Shape of Cruciformity: Narrative Patterns of the Cross in Lewis’ Fiction and Nonfiction
  5. The Long Shadow of the Cross and the Cruciform Heroic in C.S. Lewis
  6. Conclusion: The Inversive Shape of C.S. Lewis’ Theology of the Cross


This thesis presses in on C.S. Lewis’ extremely diverse corpus to explore his integrative narrative spirituality of the cross. Chapter one argues that attention to the concept of spiritual self-death and resurrection in Lewis is lacking critical treatment despite the spirituality of the cross that I argue is deeply woven into the fabric of Lewis’ poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and letters. This cross-shaped spirituality, what Michael Gorman calls “cruciformity,” is central to Lewis’ understanding of Christian life. Though neglected because of reductive readings of Lewis as an apologist, chapter one surveys occasional notes about this death-and-resurrection motif in Lewis scholarship and provides definitions for methodological approaches to the study. Following definitions of spiritual theology by Eugene Peterson, chapter two turns from systematic theological explorations of Lewis to consider him as a spiritual theologian, a move that is organic to his theological enterprise, his epistemology, and his fiction. Chapter three explores Gorman’s biblical-theological approach to Pauline cruciformity, arguing that there is a six-point Logic of Cruciformity in Lewis’ so-called apologetics writings that moves past and refocuses Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ. As Lewis’ spirituality is embedded in narrative form within poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, chapter four explores “The Shape of Cruciformity” in Lewis’ œuvre, using Northrop Frye’s narratology and J.R.R. Tolkien’s theory of eucatastrophe to argue that there is a comedic, U-shaped pattern of cruciform imagery in Lewis’ fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Chapter five interrogates Lewis’ integrative, normative narrative cruciformity with feminist theological critique, provoked by Anna Fisk’s concerns about cross-shaped spiritualities in women’s experiences. A response to this problematisation reveals an inversive quality inherent to Lewis’ thought that is itself U-shaped, comedic, and eucatastrophic. This thesis concludes by exploring this inversive U-shaped thinking central to Lewis’ theological project, arguing that the shape of cruciformity in Lewis is the shape of his spiritual theology. I conclude with “sacred paradoxes” in Lewis’ thought that invite further work and deepen our understanding of Lewis’ concept of spiritual life, thus inviting a prophetic self-critique for Christian believers.

Table of Contents

Abstract          i
Declaration     ii
Table of Contents       iii
Abbreviations vi
Acknowledgements    vii

Ch. 1: Introduction: Cruciform Spirituality in the Works of C.S. Lewis        1

Introduction: Accounting for the Integrative Nature of C.S. Lewis’ Thought 1
Definitions as Methodological Approaches   7
Death is at the Root of the Whole Matter     16
“The Macdonald Conception of Death”         20
A Brief Survey of Lewis’ Theology of the Cross          27

Ch. 2: Where the Secret of Secrets Lies Hid: C.S. Lewis as Spiritual Theologian    34

Introduction   34
An Approach to Spiritual Theology: Eugene Peterson and “Living, living fully and well”            34
C.S. Lewis as Spiritual Theologian      38

Secondary Literature on Lewis and Spirituality         39
Social Thought and a Spirituality of the Cross in Conversation         42
A Tilt of the Head: From Systematic to Spiritual Theology    51
The Great Divorce: Eschatology to Spirituality          53
Lewis’ “Meditation in a Toolshed” as Epistemology 56
Mere Christianity: Lewis’ Emphasis on the Spiritual Life       57

An Experiment in Narnia: From Atonement Theory to Spiritual Theology   64

C.S. Lewis and The Cross Event          64
Aslanic Sacrifice as Imitation Motif    69

Conclusion      75

Ch. 3: “Die Before You Die”: C.S. Lewis’ Logic of Cruciformity        77

Introduction   77
Michael Gorman as Conversation Partner for C.S. Lewis       77
C.S. Lewis’ Logic of Cruciformity        80

Mere Christianity: Incarnational Necessity and the Echo of God      80
The Problem of Pain: Lewis’ Six Point Logic of Cruciformity 82

Cruciformity in Lewis’ Fiction 89

The Great Divorce (1944-45)  90
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)       93
Till We Have Faces (1956)       98

Conclusion: Clarifying and Moving Past Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ        104

Ch. 4: The Shape of Cruciformity: Narrative Patterns of the Cross in Lewis’ Fiction and Nonfiction           107

Introduction: Recognisable Narrative Patterns of Spirituality          107
Lewis as Imagistic Mythmaker: “It All Began with a Picture” 108
Lewis’ Imagistic Story-making and Frye’s U-Shaped Pattern 111
Dive: U-Shaped Cruciform Imagery in Lewis’ Life and Writing          114
The Fairy Tale Form in Lewis’ Fiction 121

Eucatastrophe and Fairy Tale 121
The Pilgrim’s Regress  124
Narnia 126
That Hideous Strength           128
Descent and Ascent in Planetary Journeys    136

Death Restored to the Baptised Imagination 141
Conclusion: The Zenith of the Cosmic Story  150

Ch. 5: The Long Shadow of the Cross and the Cruciform Heroic in C.S. Lewis        155

Introduction: A Black and Scarlet Cord: Violence and Death in the Shadowlands   155
The Long Shadow of the Cross: A Feminist Critique of Crucicentric Spirituality       160

Approaches to Feminist Christologies           160
Anna Fisk and Images of the Cross     164

Kath Filmer and the First Generation of Critics on Lewis and Women          170
Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen and the Second Generation of Lewis Gender Critics    178
Integrative Cruciformity and Inversive Qualities in Lewis’ Life and Work     183

Ann Loades and Lewis’ Christological Inversion        183
Inversive Cruciform Elements in The Four Loves and A Grief Observed       184
The Cruciform Principle and A Severe Mercy 187
Lewis’ Deepening Cruciform Inversion of Hierarchy in Love 192

Monika Hilder and the Lewisian Spiritual “Feminine” Heroic           194
Lewis as Conversation Partner in a Cruciform Spirituality of Sex and Gender          199

Ch. 6: Conclusion: The Inversive Shape of C.S. Lewis’ Theology of the Cross         202

Introduction: The Shape of Lewis’ Spiritual Theology           202
Comedy, Satire, and Ironic Inversion in Lewis’ Work 204
The Screwtape Letters as Moral Inversion    208
Comedy and Inversive Thinking         213
“As High as My Spirit, As Small as My Stature”: C.S. Lewis’ Theology of the Small   214
Criticism as Conversion: Active Surrender in C.S. Lewis’ Spiritual Theology 224

C.S. Lewis’ Experiment in Criticism    226
On A Grief Observed  229

Sacred Paradoxes: Limitations and Invitations to Further Work       232

Bibliography   243

C.S. Lewis Bibliography          243
Secondary Source Bibliography         247
Primary Sources and Archival Material          271

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