The Periods of C.S. Lewis’ Literary Life

Last week I took time to share my “cheat sheet“–a project that began for me on a scrap of paper but slowly grew up into an excel sheet resource that I consult pretty frequently. What I wanted to do was immerse myself in C.S. Lewis’ writing culture (knowing that the publication dates at the front of our books don’t tell much of the story). What can we learn from the cheat sheet?

It is obviously a tool that can be adapted by scholars and biographers for their own purposes. And anyone who wants to attempt a chronological reading of C.S. Lewis will find it invaluable. Today, I want to focus in on the periods of Lewis’ life, and the kind of things he produced at different points in his life. I have altered the cheat sheet a bit since last week, and even as I type this up I’m a bit unsatisfied. Should I include Boxen and C. S. Lewis’s Lost Aeneid? What about short pieces that come to light, such as a cluster of reviews that Lewis wrote in the late 20’s and early 30’s? What about things that have emerged from his teaching notebooks? Should his “Great War” letters with Own Barfield in the 20s count as a book fragment? I have left all of these out. Still, I think we see Lewis’ life shape up pretty well in these periods:

Era Dates
Pre-Christian Through Oct 1931
1930s Oct 1931-Sep 1939
WWII   Sep 1939-Sep 1945
Interim: Post-WWII before Narnia Sep 1945-Mar 1949
Narnia, OHEL, and Surprised by Joy  Mar 1949-Nov 1954
Cambridge and Joy Davidman   Nov 1954-Jul 1960
After Joy   Jul 1960-Nov 1963

When we break his life up into periods, we can get a sense of what defined his life and his work. I have included the full chart below, adding to it a couple of elements that pace his work (the number of months it took to publish each book and essay). Here are some trends that came out of the data for me.

Finding His Literary Voice

While Lewis was a prolific author, it took him years to develop his literary voice. Lewis endeavoured to be a poet and was thrilled to find his teenage poetry published as a collection, Spirits in Bondage (1919). If there was not a hunger in UK society to hear from war poets, however, it is doubtful that this volume would have found a prominent publisher. When his narrative poem Dymer was finished in 1925, his publisher rejected it. When it was finally published on merit, it sold very poorly, and Lewis set his dream of being a great poet aside. He attempted at least three other narrative poems at the end of the 20s and the early 30s, but he never completed them.

Because Lewis left the long-form poetry behind, doesn’t mean that he became disinterested in telling stories. In The Pilgrim’s Regress (1933), Lewis drew some of his conversion poetry into a piece that he would never replicate in form (allegory) or voice (highly complex and obscure references). After reading David Lindsay, J.B.S. Haldane, and Charles Williams–and taking up a wager with J.R.R. Tolkien–Lewis gave SF writing a try with Out of the Silent Planet (1938). If the conversion allegory was a misstep in literary development, for all its flaws Out of the Silent Planet sets the stage for 15 years of storytelling to follow.

While he would continue to write lyric poetry for the rest of his life, Lewis typically published them under a pseudonym. I have left short book reviews out of my essay treatment (here) and the list below, but in the late 20s Lewis started doing reviews connected with the book that would become The Allegory of Love (1936). These reviews and his literary essays of the 1930s was a testing ground for Lewis’ voice as a literary historian and cultural critic. By the time WWII erupted in Europe, Lewis had trained his voice to meet the public as a controversialist Oxford Don.

It has been noted by biographers, but it is supported by data: C.S. Lewis found his voice as a writer when he surrendered to belief in God and returned to the church in 1930. What an un-reverted Lewis would have produced in his life is unknown to us, but Christianity most certainly energized Lewis in producing a diverse and full catalogue of works.

Book Publication Pace

While Lewis did not begin publishing books in earnest until the late 1930s, he kept a remarkable pace from that point onward, shepherding 45 books to publication (or nearly to publication) in his life. In the 30s, Lewis published a book about every 19 months. In WWII, he increased that pace to a book every 5-6 months. He never quite matched the pace of WWII output in numbers of books, but came close in the Narnian period (a book every 6-7 months) and, intriguingly, during the period after Joy Davidman passed away (a book every 6 months).

Taking into consideration the page counts of the published books–an inaccurate but helpful measure–and we get a clearer image of output. In terms of published pages, taking out reprints, Lewis published 1,000-1,200 pages in each of these four periods: the 1930s, the Interim, Cambridge & Joy, and After Joy. In WWII, Lewis’ published output was 1,772 pages–about 50% higher than normal. In the Narnia period, Lewis produced double his typical output with 2487 published pages (leaving aside his reprint of the various BBC talks as Mere Christianity).

Beyond these two measures, there is also Lewis’ continual work in writing essays. They largely fall into two camps–Christian essays and literary essays. Overall, Lewis kept a remarkable essay-writing pace. He wrote mostly literary essays in the 1930s at a pace of 2 per year. Beginning at about the start of WWII, Lewis took an interest in apologetics, cultural criticism, and Christian teaching. Must of this interest was focussed on essay writing and other short pieces (like sermons and editorials). All through the two periods that dominated the 1940s, Lewis produced an essay every 6 weeks. This slowed down in the Narnian period, and then increased to a pace of an essay every 9 weeks in the last decade of his life. Intriguingly, the Narnian period is an outlier, where essays dropped to just over 2 per year. Much of this was a drop in academic work: Lewis typically kept a pace of 2-3 literary essays per year, but that dropped to less than 1 per year in the period where he is writing Narnia, OHEL, and his memoir.

What does this teach us? I think there are a few lessons:

  • The experiences of WWII formed the Lewis we know through a chain of events: Out of the Silent Planet (1938) led to The Problem of Pain (1940) and his work as an apologist. These factors, with The Screwtape Letters (1941) led to the BBC talks and a lot of work in apologetics in the 1940s. Meanwhile, Charles Williams‘ and his own lectures in Paradise Lost led to an academic introduction and Perelandra (1943). Everything seemed to trip forward for Lewis along what seemed like different academic, Christian, and popular pathways. By the end of WWII, it was clear that those pathways were running all along together.
  • At the end of the war, Lewis turned an editorial eye to those who influenced him, creating an anthology of George MacDonald‘s work and two Charles Williams‘ collections (one which meant editing J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous “On Fairy-stories). When you consider that much Miracles was made up of material disseminated in various forms during WWII, we see how the Interim period is nearly void of fresh writing. It is the only period where he was interested in editing the work of others and where his own imaginative input was thin.
  • Lewis’ sabbatical in 1951-52 clearly contributed to output, allowing him to move Narnia fr0m a couple of books to a full series, and allowing him to finish OHEL. It might be, too, that the step away from academic life gave Lewis some mental space that moved into his memoir writing.
  • The sabbatical, however, does not solely explain output in the Narnian period. This was the only period in post-conversion life when he didn’t produce 5-8 essays a year, and it seems that the focus on his long-form fiction and magnum opus academic work paid off–even if it meant that Lewis disappeared from public view.
  • I don’t think there is any doubt that Mrs. Moore’s death in 1951 freed Lewis up for work. The period of 1951-53 is the most productive of Lewis’ life, save the period of 1941-43.
  • There isn’t a single lesson about busyness and Lewis’ productivity. When Lewis was healthy, the busy periods seemed to spur him on to great work (like in the WWII period). But the Interim period is a testament that to the fact that competing pressures took their toll. The death of his best friend, the soft response to his 1945-47 books, the explosion of post-war students in Oxford, his brother’s increasingly destructive binges, pressures at home, and (potentially) a public defeat in philosophical debate in 1948 choked out Lewis’ productivity and led to a collapse. The busyness of the WWII period produced much good, while the period of the post-war period produced only exhaustion.
  • We have an intriguing dark period after Lewis met Joy Davidman and he moved to Cambridge. Joy clearly helped with Till We Have Faces (1956), but it was a couple years later that Lewis produced Reflections on the Psalms (1958). Joy’s influence touches the entire period as she helped shape Till We Have Faces and encouraged the academic books that would fill his last 5 years of work. Still, this 1956 space is an intriguing emptiness.
  • Is it surprising that after Joy’s death he turned to writing? A Grief Observed (1961) is a small project that followed her death, but almost immediately Lewis pinned An Experiment in Criticism and worked on editing his essays (which are suggestive of a new period, I think, should Lewis have lived).
  • It looks to me, given the productivity, that after his illness in 1962, that Lewis was moving forward with new work in 1963. Had he lived, what would have written?
  • After his early 30s, Lewis rarely began anything that he didn’t complete (or kept nothing of what he didn’t think he would complete). I have looked through his remaining sketchbooks, where he tried out various ideas, voices, poems, lectures, book outlines, and introductions. But when he took something to a substantial beginning, he either finished it or burned it.
  • Though Lewis produced books and essays at a furious pace, what most don’t know is that they often took a long time:
    • His two books of poetry represented at least 4 years each of concentrated work.
    • The Pilgrim’s Regress was written in 2 weeks but included poetry from 2 years of work.
    • The Allegory of Love is about 7 years of effort.
    • Each of his edited volumes composed 5-15 years of essays.
    • Miracles was made up of essays and speeches over a 3-4 year period, then was abridged in 1958 and revised in 1959 for an (unusual) 2nd edition.
    • The Magician’s Nephew was begun in 1948 or 1949, and was the only book of the Narniad that Lewis struggled with. Though published 2nd last after 5+ years of work–and though it is 1st in American editions–it was completed last.
    • OHEL was commisioned in 1935 and the last bits were completed in 1953, representing 18 years of scholarly work.
    • Surprised by Joy was probably written quickly in 1954, but Lewis had been attempting to write a memoir since at least 1930.
    • Till We Have Faces flowed quickly with Joy Davidman as writing partner, but the central story had been in Lewis’ mind for decades.
    • The Four Loves was written as a lecture series in 1958 and then adapted to a book in 1959, but began as a germ of an idea in the mid-1930s.
    • In the early 1940s Lewis tried to think about a book on prayer, but it didn’t come until he turned to epistolary fiction again in 1963, producing Letters to Malcolm.
    • The Discarded Image, Lewis’ last and one of his most enduring works of literary history, began as lectures in as early as 1934.

C.S. Lewis was a terrifyingly efficient writer. Moreover, he was committed to book publication, and he was almost constantly shepherding a book through the stages of conception, writing, editing, publication correspondence, or proofs. In his three biggest periods–WWII, Narnia, and After Joy–he had a book or essay published every 5 or 6 weeks. It is a tremendous accomplishment.

Even though I produced the chart below this morning, I have already begun adapting it (adding page numbers). I’m also trying to figure out a timeline feature to add all the publication points on a single line. It will, I think, be a project that takes me longer than most of Lewis’ books. I hope you find Lewis’ books more interesting than my analysis, but if the analysis helps–or if you can offer corrections or additions–do let me know.

Bks=Books Complete; Frags=Significant Fragments published later; Mo/Bk=how many months on average it took to publish a book; Mo/Ess=how many months on average it took to publish an essay; Mo/Lit=how many months on average it took to publish a literary essay. Do note the difference between publication year and the year(s) Lewis was working on the project. I have left the pre-Christian period out of some of the analysis. This chart doesn’t include books of Lewis’ works that were not edited by him.

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Help Build My Son’s School’s Middle English Library

My son is part of a small, creative school that has been very strong in pedagogy and still growing when it comes to infrastructure. Part of this is a library that is coming together bits by bits through hard work, focussed yard sale haunting, and the raiding of other people’s libraries. It works in that typically the books are pretty good, but it is a slow process.

Recently a donor has offered a $250 (CDN) donation with a peculiar purpose: to secure Middle English books in honour of a recently deceased college prof who was himself a student of C.S. Lewis’. I was asked to take this on. Instead of making it up myself, I thought I would throw the building of this list out to the community. You have, I’m sure, a better sense of what is ideal and what will lure unsuspecting teens into this part of the library.

I haven’t done this before, but I am making this a living blog post. As you add ideas in the comments (or on facebook pages where I know it is shared), I will add to the list. I’ll also prioritize it based on your comments here. The dollar amount is low, but some more common things are easier to find used or free than more obscure things. But I doubt there will be any gold embossed leather bound critical editions on the list.

Thanks in advance for the help. And do note that if you are tempted to offer books to the school, we would love that (given they are good quality), but shipping is pretty costly to Canada. Get an estimate and see if you want to donate that before imagining it is like your own intra-national shipping.

So … let’s build this library!

The List Has Begun

Here are the Suggestions: feel free to add your own. And be sure to vote for certain things so I can make the right decisions.

  • Various editions of Gawain (Brian Stone’s edition has been donated–what are other good ones?)
  • Simon Armitage’s The Death of King Arthur (which is verse and parallel with the ME); has anyone looked at Armitage’s other ME work?
  • We have been donated a Complete Poetry & Prose of Chaucer (Fisher)
  • Does anyone know about good parallel editions like Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf?
  • York Mystery Plays A Selection in Modern Spelling
  • Walter Hylton/Hilton (Ladder/Scale of Perfection)
  • Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love
  • Rolle of Hampole’s Fire of Love
  • Anonymous, The Cloud of Unknowing
  • The Book of Margery Kempe
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Histories
  • The Mabinogion
  • Gower’s Confessio Amantis
  • Langland’s Piers Plowman
  • The works of the Pearl Poet
  • The Ancrene Wisse
  • Tolkien’s translation of Pearl, Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, and Sir Orfeo
  • Marie Borroff’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • See note on Medieval Morality Plays in comments
  • See also Penguin volume called Medieval English Verse
  • Burrow & Turville-Petre, A Book of Middle English (3rd ed.)
  • Donald Sands’ Middle English Verse Romances
  • Garbaty, Medieval English Literature

Posted in Feature Friday | 15 Comments

The Argument Continues: Late 20th Century Christian and Pagan Depictions of Arthur and the Grail by Suzanne Bray

I’m pleased to offer the first of our guest bloggers in the Inklings and Arthur series celebrating the links between the Oxford Inklings and the Matter of Britain. This series is in concert with the new collection, The Inklings and King Arthur, edited by Sørina Higgins. The book has topped a number of Amazon sales lists and the kindle version was released this week. This series will include some of the authors of the collection, including Suzanne Bray, Professor of British Literature and Civilisation at Lille Catholic University in the north of France. She has written extensively in French and English about C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Dorothy L. Sayers and other 20th-century Anglican authors.

David Llewellyn Dodds, Guest Editor


In my article for The Inklings and King Arthur, I point out that Charles Williams’s presentation of the Holy Grail, both in his Arthurian poetry and in the novel War in Heaven (1930), did not occur in a vacuum, but in the context of an on-going argument about the origins and meaning of the Grail. This was partly on account of the appearance of Comparative Religion as a field of academic study and, in particular, of the publication between 1911 and 1915 of James Frazer’s famous twelve volume study, The Golden Bough, and the popularization of his theories by Jessie Weston in From Ritual to Romance (1920), which influenced T. S. Eliot’s bestselling poem, The Wasteland (1922). For Weston, “it is only in the recognition of this one-time claim of essential kinship between Christianity and the Pagan Mysteries that we shall find the key to the secret of the Grail.” For the general public at the time, the main point of Weston’s study appeared to be “the sexual symbolism of the story, notably the grail and the lance, which can be interpreted as symbols of the female and male genitalia” (P. Lewis).

Charles Williams was aware of these interpretations and deplored them, finding Jessie Weston’s type of interpretation too syncretistic, as it mixes up elements from different belief systems which are normally incompatible and which require the reader to ignore the obvious Christian meaning of the Grail legends:

There has been much controversy about them – vessels of plenty and cauldrons of magic – and they have been supposed by learned experts to be the origin of the Grail myth. That, in the Scriptural and ecclesiastical sense, they certainly cannot be […] the Grail entered Europe with the Christian […] faith. It came from and with Christ. (“The Figure of Arthur”, 23)

He also felt that the general public had accepted these syncretistic theories too uncritically. In his opinion:

Such a great work as The Golden Bough, for example, was too easily supposed to have proved what it had never meant – or should never have meant – to prove. Its hinted thesis that all religion arose from a desire to encourage the annual harvest was generally thought to have explained satisfactorily how the harvest came into existence at all, and its multitude of gods conditioned by magic were identified with a Godhead unconditioned except by its own Will. (Descent of the Dove, 223)

Williams’s own Grail, like those of his Christian contemporaries Arthur Machen and Evelyn Underhill, is fully Christian. It is, above all, a chalice, used to celebrate the Eucharist, at the same time a means of bringing people to Christ and a source of divine healing.

More recent authors

However, Williams and his friends did not have the last word on the Grail and later Arthurian authors have, in general, either supported his position or accepted Jessie Weston’s interpretation. In addition, these representations of the Grail have often been included in works which are either clearly Christian, openly neo-pagan or New Age, or strongly anti-religious. As novelist Bernard Cornwell accurately states: “The Matter of Britain is endlessly malleable. You take out of it what you want to take out of it” (Thompson). For example, one well-known neo-pagan and anti-Christian novel is Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon (1983), where Christianity is depicted as a negative force and Arthur’s downfall is blamed on “his rejection of the pagan religions when he converts to Christianity” (Doherty, 57).

A distinct contrast from the religious viewpoint may be noted between two very well-researched and well-written Arthurian series, Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Trilogy (1995-1997) and Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon Cycle (1987-1997), both of which attempt to place the action in a credible sixth-century context. Both Cornwell and Lawhead come to the conclusion that the enduring appeal of the Arthurian tales comes, at least in part, from their connection with the tradition of a British golden age between the Battle of Mount Badon, in approximately 525 AD, and the establishment of the Saxon kingdoms in the south of Britain about half a century later.

However, when it comes to their interpretation of the religious elements in the Arthurian tales, Lawhead and Cornwell differ strongly. Both agree that several early texts indicate that Arthur sometimes found himself in conflict with the Church authorities, but they disagree as to why this occurred. Cornwell has a very negative view of the Church and believes the sixth century Christians were intolerant:

“At least one modern scholar has suggested that Christianity was sympathetic to the remnants of British Druidism and that the two creeds existed in peaceful cooperation, but toleration has never been the strongest suit of the Church and I doubt his conclusions” (“Author’s Note”, The Winter King, 433).

As a result, in the Warlord Trilogy he portrays a conflictual society, deeply divided along religious lines. His British churchmen are mainly unpleasant – “when Christianity seems to get slightly on top, it turns vicious” (Thompson) – or, if agreeable, like Bishop Bedwin, then improbably inclined to syncretism. Like Lawhead, Cornwell names most of his ecclesiastical characters after real people, including Bishop Samson, whom he describes, as “an unmitigated shit” (Thompson). While even Christian readers are quite prepared to admit that nasty, mercenary priests have played their part in the history of the Church, it seems unnecessary to portray the man Geoffrey of Monmouth described as “Samson, the saintly Archbishop” (Barber, 17), and about whom nothing disagreeable is known, in such a negative way. Lawhead’s description of Bishops Samson and Dubricius as “good and holy men” (Merlin, 387) corresponds better to what is known about Samson. His own objectionable cleric, Bishop Urbanus of London, is fictional, which is unsurprising as the names of only four Bishops of London are actually known for the period 314 to 586 AD. Making him a bad man does not worry anyone.

Cornwell also takes a particular position with regard to the Holy Grail. Interpreting the Grail stories within the tradition of Jessie Weston, Cornwell concludes that

“we can be fairly certain that the popular medieval tales of the search for the Holy Grail were merely a Christianized reworking of the much older cauldron myths” (“Author’s Note”, Enemy of God, 395).

His Grail is, therefore, a miracle-working cauldron, sought by the pagan characters to restore Britain to their gods.

Using much the same sources as Cornwell, Lawhead comes to vastly different conclusions. The Church’s failure to fully support Arthur is explained by some ambitious churchmen “grasping after earthly power” (Arthur, 361) and no longer fully serving God’s purposes. These political clerics are incapable of understanding the vision of the intangible Kingdom of Summer that Arthur seeks to establish. Lawhead also sees no inherent contradiction between the Druids’ beliefs and Christianity. As he explained in an interview in 2007:

“The actual historical fact is that many of the Druids at a very, very early age became Christians and gave rise to the whole Celtic Church; and that connection is very well established in history” (Johann).

For Lawhead, “the idea that the Druids are all bad […] is a fairly recent idea, probably from Victorian times on, when much of what they did was misrepresented and then later picked up by new-agers who linked it to all kinds of pagan practices or rituals” (Johann).

Lawhead’s position is partly based on the indisputable fact that St Columba spoke of Christ as his Druid and interceded at the Convention of Druim Cett in 575 AD to prevent the banishment from Ireland of the bards, who maintained the druidic tradition.  As a result, many of the Druids in the Pendragon Cycle convert to Christianity, although some others oppose them and become hostile to the Faith, while Merlin and Blaise see no contradiction in being both a Druid and a Christian prophet at the same time. With regard to the Grail, Lawhead supports Charles Williams in finding Jessie Weston’s type of interpretation too syncretistic. Lawhead’s own Grail is, as the Glastonbury legends claim, “the cup Jesu used at his last supper, brought here by the merchant Joseph of Arimathea” (Arthur, 108) and is a source of divine blessing to the community.

Although both Cornwell’s and Lawhead’s interpretations can be justified from the sources available, it is probable that they are mainly influenced by the authors’ own religious beliefs. Cornwell was brought up in a very strict evangelical group, the Peculiar People, by an adopted father who beat him. After escaping, he became a convinced atheist and, although he has now been married for several decades to an equally convinced member of the American Episcopal Church, Cornwell admits that:

“having been brought up by the Peculiar People and having escaped them, I‘ve always had a slightly twisted and biased view of all religions” (Thompson).

Lawhead, on the other hand, is a committed Christian, currently a member of the Church of England, and very interested in the Celtic Christian tradition. As a result, “religion and religious symbolism remain integral to his works” (Doherty) and, although there are some nasty and hypocritical Christians in the novels, there are always at least a couple of positive Christian role models and the faith itself is portrayed in an attractive manner. Lawhead may therefore be seen as continuing the tradition of Williams and the other Inklings, and participating in a debate which is unlikely to end anytime soon.

Works Cited

Barber, Richard (ed.). The Arthurian Legends: An Illustrated Anthology, The Boydell Press, London, 1979.

Cornwell, Bernard. Enemy of God, Michael Joseph, London, 1996.

____. The Winter King, BCA, London, 1995.

Doherty, John J. “‘A Land Shining with Goodness’: Magic and Religion in Stephen Lawhead’s Taliesin, Merlin and Arthur,” Arthuriana, vol.9, no. 1, Spring 1999, p.57-66.

Johann. “Scarlet: Interview with Stephen Lawhead: Exploring Druids and Magic in Christian Fiction,” Hollywood Jesus, 18 October 2007. http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/scarlet/

Lawhead, Stephen. Arthur, Lion, Oxford, 1989.

____. Merlin, Lion, Oxford, 1988.

Lewis, Pericles. “The Waste Land”, Introduction to Modernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 129-151.

Thompson, Raymond H. “Interview with Bernard Cornwell,” The Camelot Project 9, June 2007. http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/thompson-interview-cornwell

Weston, Jessie. From Ritual to Romance (1920), Project Gutenberg. http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/4090

Williams, Charles. The Descent of the Dove. London: The Religious Book Club, 1939.

____. “The Figure of Arthur”, in C.S. Lewis, Arthurian Torso. London: Oxford University Press, 1948.

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My Cheat Sheet of C.S. Lewis’ Writing Schedule

For those who study authors of the past, you will soon discover that the publication lists and bibliography of an author are not always terribly helpful. After all, writing, editing, and publishing a book are stages that can each take years. Knowing something is published in 1822 or 1946 tells us little about the writing process. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien each had books that took nearly two decades to write. Ezra Pound spent more than a half-century on his famous Cantos–carrying the poems through his London period and WWI, through various parts of France and Europe in the 1920s, into an American prison camp, to a treason trial in the U.S., and to a mental ward where he did some of his best work. In his last decade in Italy he finally published the whole, though parts were published at various points between the years of 1917 and 1948.

A publication date of “1968” doesn’t help us much as historians of Ezra Pound, any more than 1954 suits as the publication date of Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring or Lewis’ English Literature in the 16th Century, Excluding Drama.

Over the last five years, then, I have developed a habit of speaking about when C.S. Lewis or one of the Inklings wrote a book, rather than when they published it. I haven’t been perfectly consistent with this on the blog, but have generally put the writing period in brackets rather than the publication date.

To do this, I discovered that I was slowly building myself a cheat sheet to help me remember when Lewis was writing a book so that I can connect it with what was going on at the time. The cheat sheet includes completed books and incomplete fragments of what would have been a book. I’ve decided to share this cheat sheet with those of you who are interested. This might save you time or inspire you to make connections between Lewis’ work and his life patterns. And, perversely, I’m hoping to draw more people into the project of reading Lewis chronologically, and have provided resources here, here, and here.

I’m also hoping that in sharing you will be able to point out errors. For example, I probably should put the 1916 “The Quest of Bleheris” on this list as a fragment. Or perhaps if someone is able and interested they could format this into some kind of useful internet tool. Whether to make it better or to use it for yourself, if the excel sheet can be of help, email me: junkola [at] gmail [dot] com.

If you decide to print this off and keep it with your Lewis books-to-read pile, I would encourage you to use it with a basic timeline like the one published by the C.S. Lewis Foundation. Digging deeper, Joel Heck’s “Chronologically Lewis,” now complete after 13 years of work, has all the details you could need if you want to press in on a particular period. Critical to pulling this kind of list together were the three-volume Collected Letters, edited by Walter Hooper, and Hooper’s C.S. Lewis: Companion and Guide (1996). Some of the dates on here were adjusted based on facebook discussion groups, blog posts, and notes in three biographies of Lewis, by Alister McGrath (2013), by George Sayer (1988), and by Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper (1967). See also critical biographies of the Inklings by Humphrey Carpenter (1978) and by Carol Zaleski and Philip Zaleski (2015), as well as historical work by Diana Pavlac Glyer’s The Company They Keep (2008).

I have left in the fallow years following Lewis’ conversion, but after Lewis found his literary voice in the early 1930s, he was rarely without a book or essay on his desk. A post next week will chase down “The Periods of C.S. Lewis’ Literary Life.”

C.S. Lewis Book Production (Publication Year and Completion Date)
Year # Book/Fragment (Pub. Year) Working Period & Notes
1918 1 Spirits in Bondage (1918) 1914-1918 poems; done Summer 1918
1925 1 Dymer (1926) 1916-1925; esp. Apr 1922-Apr 1924
1927 0.5 The Easley Fragment (2011) Fall 1927
1930 0.5 Launcelot Fragment (1969) 1930-1933; cf “Nameless Isle” Aug 1930
1931 0.5 Early Prose Joy Fragment (2013) Written late 1930 or early-mid 1931
1932 1 The Pilgirm’s Regress (1933) Aug 1932; incl. poems 1929-32, esp. poems of summer 1930 after theistic conversion
1933 0.5 Queen of the Drum Fragment (1969) Work in 1927 and 1933; read aloud in 1938
1935 1 The Allegory of Love (1936) begun Apr 1928; complete Sep 1935; in proofs Mar 1936
1936 0
1937 1 Out of the Silent Planet (1938) Finished Sep 2, 1937
1938 2 The Personal Heresy (Ed/Col 1939); Rehabilitations (Col 1939) Personal Heresy Essays 1930, 1936, 1938; Lewis-Tillyard Debate Feb 7, 1938; Rehabilitation Essays 1934-1938
1939 0.5 The Dark Tower Fragment (1977); Approx. date of Dark Tower as authentic could be 1939 to mid-1940s
1940 1 The Problem of Pain (1941) Nov 1939-May 1940
1941 2 The Screwtape Letters (1941/1942); A Preface to Paradise Lost (1942) Screwtape written Aug 1940-early 1941 and preface written Jul 1941; lectures for Preface Fall 1939 & Dec 1941
1942 2 Broadcast Talks(1942); Christian Behaviour(1943) 1st & 2nd talks Aug-Sep 1941 & Jan-Feb 1942; 3rd series Sep-Nov 1942
1943 3 Perelandra (1943); The Abolition of Man (1944); That Hideous Strength (1945) Perelandrawritten Nov 1941-May 1942; Abolition lectures Feb 23-25, 1942; THS written Fall 1942-Dec 29, 1943
1944 2 Beyond Personality (1944);                 The Great Divorce (1944-45) Beyond Personality BBC talks Feb-Apr 1944; Great Divorce written 1st half of 1944
1945 2 Miracles: Preliminary Study (1947); George MacDonald: An Anthology (1946) Miracles complete by May 28, 1945, with essays 1943-1945; Anthologycomplete by May 20, 1945
1946 1 Arthurian Torso (1948) Torso begun May 1945 and to OUP by Nov 1946; letter to widow on Mar 13, 1947; includes lecture on Charles Williams from Fall 1945
1947 1 Essays Presented to Charles Williams  (1947) Editorial work for Essays begun in 1945 and complete by Fall 1947; CSL’s “On Stories” began as “Kappa Element” in 1940
1948 0
1949 2.5 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950); Transpositions/The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses(1949);  Language and Meaning (2010) Writing of Lion Mar-May 1949, including mixed result conversaitions with Inklings; unknown editing schedule of sermons & addresses 1939-1947; unknown date of notes for book with Tolkien
1950 2 Prince Caspian (1951); The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952) Prince Caspian typed by Feb 21, 1950; Dawn Treader finished by Feb 21, 1950
1951 0
1952 2 Mere Christianity (1952); English Literature in the 16th Century (1954) Reprint of BBC talks, unknown editing; OHEL commission in 1935, odd refs in 1940s, Clark Lectures 1944, sabbatical 1951-52, complete June 1952, biblios and proofs 1953
1953 3 The Silver Chair (1953); The Horse and His Boy (1954); The Last Battle (1956) Silver Chairdraft by Mar 6, 1951, complete by Mar 21, 1953; Horse & Boy submitted Mar 20, 1953; Last Battle complete May 21, 1953
1954 2 Surprised by Joy (1955); The Magician’s Nephew (1955) working on Joy Mar 1954, likely done 1954; Magician’s Nephew begun in 1950 with draft in 1951 uncertain completion in 1954 or 1955
1955 1 Till We Have Faces (1956) begun by Mar 1955, full draft by July 1955
1956 0
1957 1 Reflections on the Psalms (1958) finished fall 1957, invited to Revise the Psalter in 1958 (worked on 1959-62)
1958 1 Studies in Words (1960) began with Easter term lectures 1956, repeated each spring, complete text Christmas 1958
1959 4 The Screwtape Letters and Screwtape Proposes a Toast (2d 1960); The World’s Last Night and Other Essays (1960); The Four Loves (1960); Miracles (2d, 1960) “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” and preface complete Nov-Dec 1959; Essay collection of 1951-59 essays completed in 1959; Four Loves lectures written and delivered summer 1958, book done June 1959; revision of Miracles began with Anscombe in 1948, then abridgement in 1958; CSL rewrote ch. 3 of Miracles and made corrections in 2nd half 1959
1960 3.5 A Grief Observed (1961); An Experiment in Criticism; Screwtape Proposes a Toast and Other Pieces (1965);                     After Ten Years Fragment (1977) Grief in Aug 1960 following Joy’s death; proofs for Experiment by Jan 1961; Toast contents, preface and notes by Lewis c. Apr-May 1961, incl. essays from 1940s-1950s; on Fragment see Roger Green in Green & Hooper
1961 1 They Asked for a Paper (1962) details worked out June 1961
1963 2 Letters to Malcolm (1964); The Discarded Image (1964) attempted in early ’50s, idea returned in 1962, Malcolm done by Apr 1963; based on “prolegomena” lectures begun in 1934, it is Lewis’ last book

Note: in copying over the Excel sheet I lost all the formatting, so books are not in italics.

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Literature, Film, and Technoculture Class at Signum University (Starts Tuesday)

I wanted to announce this great SignumU live course starting next week. I have the pleasure of being the “Preceptor” for this lecture series by Dr. Chad Andrews. This science fiction-centred course counts toward the Imaginative Literature concentration, though many of the students will attend for fun. There are three levels of engagement: Credit students and Discussion Auditors both attend weekly discussions based on the lectures, and Auditors get to experience the lectures live with Prof. Andrews. The reading list is pretty cool–containing some excellent film–so I’m excited to dig in.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that our technologies and our cultures are inextricably linked, at least in the industrialized West. Advanced technologies enable the extension of lifespans, the simulation of realities, the mapping of genetic codes, and the creation of art. They facilitate instantaneous communications across the globe, collapsing, as David Harvey has claimed, the traditional distances of space and time. Our cultures have always been connected to our tools, but the relationship has never been more intimate.

This course aims to survey a range of literary and cinematic narratives that explore the growth, acceleration, and consequences of modern technoculture. Works of literature—science fiction, speculative fiction, imaginative literature, and so forth—will be placed alongside films—short and feature, mainstream and fringe—and embedded historically within debates and developments such as bio-engineering, cyborgs, future cities, gender, high-tech war, race, the singularity, and more. By studying texts as discourses rooted in a complex and shifting technocultural landscape, students will discuss some of the ways these narratives shape—and are shaped by—our technological realities.

Live Lectures will be held: Tuesdays 7:30-9:00pm and Thursdays 6:30-8:00pm (Eastern Time). Click here for more.

Course Schedule

Literature, Film, and Technoculture will have two 1-hour lectures plus two 1-hour preceptor sessions per week (4 hours/week total).

Week 1 – Genre, Discourse and Technoculture

  • Reading: “The Heat Death of the Universe,” Pamela Zoline (1967)
  • Viewing: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

Week 2 – “Origins” and Evolutions

  • Reading: The Battle of Dorking: Reminiscences of a Volunteer, George Tomkyns Chesney (1871)
  • Viewing: Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902)

Week 3 – Techno-Utopias and Future Cities

  • Reading:
    • “The Concentration City,” J.G. Ballard (1957)
    • “The Gernsback Continuum,” William Gibson (1981)
  • Viewing: Metropolis (1927)

Week 4 – Robots, Servitude, and Disposability

  • Reading:
  • R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), Karel Čapek (1920)
    • “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long,” Brian Aldiss (1969)
  • Viewing: WALL-E (2008)

Week 5 – Gender and the Battle of the Sexes

  • Reading:
    • “The Conquest of Gola,” Leslie F. Stone (1931)
    • “The Screwfly Solution,” James Tiptree, Jr. (1977)
  • Viewing: Under the Skin (2013)

Week 6 – Open Discussion

  • Viewing: La Jetée (1962)

Week 7 – Race, Resistance, and Aliens

  • Reading: Dawn, Octavia E. Butler (1987)
  • Viewing: District 9 (2009)

Week 8 – High-Tech War and Deterrence

  • Reading:
    • “That Only a Mother,” Judith Merril (1948)
    • “The Soviet Strategic Threat from Space,” The Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy (1983)
  • Viewing: Starship Troopers (1997)

Week 9 – Bio-Engineering and Societal Collapse

  • Reading: Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood (2004)
  • Viewing: 12 Monkeys (1995)

Week 10 – Simulation, Hacking, and Cyborgs

  • Reading:
    • “Burning Chrome,” William Gibson (1982)
    • “Pretty Boy Crossover,” Pat Cadigan (1986)
  • Viewing: RoboCop (1987)

Week 11 – The Singularity and Beyond

  • Reading: Accelerando, Charles Stross (2005)
  • Viewing: Her (2013)

Week 12 – Open Discussion

  • Rogue Farm (2005)

Required Materials

Texts

Films

Note: The above film links are to where they can be purchased at Amazon; however, you may also be able to find them on various streaming services such as Netflix, iTunes, etc.

Chad Andrews is a teacher and researcher with a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies. He is interested in conjunctures of popular culture, technology, and hegemony that emerged in postwar America, with particular attention paid to the interplay between popular fantasies and structures of power. To explore these links, his writing and teaching engage with history, focusing on the Cold War, emerging technocultures, and the various “culture wars” of the final quarter of the century; with popular culture, primarily speculative literature and science fiction in various media; and with political and technological theory, particularly Antonio Gramsci and the Italian autonomists, as well as philosophers of technology such as Andrew Feenberg, N. Katherine Hayles, Donna Haraway, and others. His work can be found in journals such as Extrapolation and Science Fiction Studies, and he is currently preparing a manuscript on American science fiction and cultural crisis in the 1980s.

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C.S. Lewis on the Right Way to Read Classics

This is a post I found this week that I think is worth looking at as this week’s Friday Feature. Lewis had a lot to say about reading old books and suggested that bring classics and other books from outside our particular place and time into our to-be-read pile. Garrett Cash covers some of that quite nicely in this short essay.

Love and Mercy

You probably know C.S. Lewis for his imaginative Narnia fiction or perhaps for his non-fiction works on Christianity, but many are unaware of the groundbreaking and brilliant work he did within his scholarly field. Lewis was the premier professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Oxford, but his knowledge of greater literature itself was deep and profound. His students and colleagues were frequently amazed by his astonishing recall of minute detail in obscure works. He would play a game with you when you came to his office where he would have you pull down any book off his shelf and read a random passage out of it. He would tell you the work, author, and quote the surrounding context. Suffice it to say, the man knew his stuff.

CS-Lewis-on-the-Reading-of-Old-BooksBeing that Lewis had his ears to the ground with his students and was unusually fresh with his perspectives, his approaches to…

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Inklings and Arthur Series Introduction by David Llewellyn Dodds

It was as an ‘Arthurian’ that I first consciously encountered Charles Williams, with that adjective applying to both him and me. (I, ever since I was given Emma Gelders Sterne and Barbara Lindsay’s retelling, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table,  as a little fellow, however hair-raising were Gustaf Tenggren’s depictions of Lancelot’s sword splitting Meliagrance’s helmeted head in half and the giant Taulurd’s severed arm in mid-air as Sir Tor hewed it off.)  It was only later that I realized I had already happily encountered him, enriching Dorothy Sayers’ notes in her translation of Dante’s Comedy.

However, it was not until I thought to ‘work on him’ seriously that I came to learn how many of Williams’ Arthurian writings were still unpublished. In this adventure of reading I ended up as a textual editor. But I have also been in awe of that other kind of editor – of a thematic collection of papers – ever since I saw Mark Ormrod working on England in the Fourteenth Century when we were both teaching at Harlaxton College. If working on a single author’s unknown works has its rewards, it takes a certain kind of skill and editorial eye to bring all those perspectives together into a single volume.

Sørina Higgins has clearly done a particularly awesome piece of work in editing The Inklings and King ArthurJ.R.R. TolkienCharles Williams, C.S. Lewis, & Owen Barfield on the Matter of Britain. On a scale much less grand, we have aimed to do something similar here with the ‘Inklings and Arthur’ series this winter. The series will highlight a dozen posts from leading and emerging scholars from the fields of medieval and renaissance literature, Arthurian studies, and Inklings studies–as well as poets, writers, artists, and students.

I am honoured to serve as guest editor of this little series of online works to help celebrate its appearance – and relieved to think I have our seasoned host to pilot me safely through any shoals or reefs which may appear en route. While it is my particular delight to be the first to see the ferment of our contributors’ ideas and savour the results, I am happy to think you will be joining me in their enjoyment in the weeks ahead. Watch for an Inklings and Arthur post each Wednesday, and feel free to join in the conversation.

David Llewellyn Dodds has edited the Charles Williams and John Masefield 
volumes of Boydell & Brewer’s Arthurian Poets series, the first while 
President of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, living at and looking after 
The Kilns. His most recent publication is “‘Tolkien’s Narnia’?: Lit., 
Lang., Saints, Tinfang, and a Mythology – or two – for Christmas”, in 
Tolkien Among Scholars (Lembas Extra 2016). He is currently editing 
Charles Williams’s Arthurian Commonplace Book, and an early cycle of 
Arthurian poetry, The Advent of Galahad,  for publication (with 
tortoise-like slowness, if not steadiness).

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