A Depressing Book Announcement: Women and C.S. Lewis

Book Announcement Women and C.S. LewisIt is with great sadness that I announce the release of Women and C.S. Lewis by Carolyn Curtis and Mary Pomroy Key.

A clean, diverse, and full collection of papers by established and emerging scholars, poets, and writers, this collection is very depressing. It says many of the things that I have wanted to say, but haven’t yet gotten to writing down.

Even worse, in my quick scan, some of them are better than what I would have done.

I’m sure there are many problematic and horrifying arguments in the diverse collection of essays, but even that saddens me. What better than to have clear disagreement between the authors that find themselves on pages back-to-back?

Oh well. There is no sense worrying about why bad book announcements happen to good scholars. I’ll return, with tears, to my dusty tomes. This book will look down from its shelf at me, reeking of the disdain of its sheer good-ideaness.

Book Description from Amazon

Sexism in Narnia? Or Screwtape? Or among the Inklings? Critics have labelled C.S. Lewis a sexist, even a misogynist. Did the life and writing of the hugely popular British author and professor betray attitudes that today are unacceptable, even deplorable?

The younger Lewis was criticized for a mysterious living arrangement with a woman, but his later marriage to an American poet, Joy Davidman, became a celebrated love story. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien formed a legendary literary group, the Inklings – but without women.

Women and C.S. Lewis features academics and writers who come together to investigate the accusations: Alister McGrath, Randy Alcorn, Monika Hilder, Holly Ordway, Don W. King, Kathy Keller, Colin Duriez, Crystal Hurd, Jeanette Sears, David C. Downing, Michael Ward, Devin Brown, Malcolm Guite, Joy Jordan-Lake, Steven Elmore, Andrew Lazo, Mary Poplin, Christin Ditchfield, Lyle W. Dorsett, Paul McCusker, Crystal Downing, Kasey Macsenti, Brett McCracken, John Stonestreet, Kelly Belmonte, Brad Davis. Women and C.S. Lewis provides broad and satisfying answers. Editors are Carolyn Curtis, veteran journalist and book author; Mary Pomroy Key, Director, C.S. Lewis Study Center, Northfield, Massachusetts.

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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43 Responses to A Depressing Book Announcement: Women and C.S. Lewis

  1. loritischler says:

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. How is it depressing??


  2. robstroud says:

    A delightful review. I’ve suffered the very same disappointment when other fine books have been published in years past.


  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    The things I don’t get invited to contribute to…

    Charlie Starr writes, “In Women and C.S. Lewis we do not meet ‘Jack’ Lewis the Feminist”, whereas if only someone had inquired, I might finally have sat down to produce, “C.S. Lewis: Feminist Theologian?” Ah, well…

    Amongst Amazon reviewers, Carmen Munnelly gives detailed attention to a number of the essays and Mark Winter notes, “The book is divided into four sections: 1. Lewis, the man – and the women in his life 2. Lewis, the author- how girls and women are portrayed in his novels 3. Lewis the poet – surprises from his poetry and 4. Lewis, the influencer – how his life and literature impact the 21st century discussion about women.” But where does one find a list of the contents? Not at either US or UK Amazon, nor at Lion Hudson, so far as I can discover.

    Might you be temptable to supply it, or do you know an easier way?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hanna says:

      Barnes and Noble’s website has a preview of the book and it includes the table of contents. http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/women-and-cs-lewis-carolyn-curtis/1120635676?ean=9780745956947 Honestly, I wasn’t too terribly interested in this book at first, but after reading over the contents, I might have to get a hold of a copy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I probably shouldn’t give my thesis now, but if I were to respond to Charlie, I would say, “Yes … and yet….” And yet…. he is the one writing stuff down!
      Hope you caught Hanna’s note.


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Yes, excellent – thank you, Hanna! (I thought there might be something like that somewhere, but did not know how best to go searching… Too lazily or timidly Amazon-centric! – and/or publisher-minded, from the days when that was the way to go, when your little local bookstore did not have something and was not inclined, or permitted by chain-rules, to do it for you.)

        “Yes… and yet…” sounds like something I’d agree with, though we’d have to spell out details 😉

        I remember being struck by something Dorothy Sayers said about ‘feminisms’ or waves of feminism or something (but I’d have to reread – not a bad idea! I really must read more of her letters, too – which Lewis so justly praised highly – and playfully. I see they’ve got at least two essays together.)

        Liked by 1 person

  4. L.A. Smith says:

    Aww, don’t be discouraged. Your book will be unique and full of great insights about Lewis, I know it! In the meantime you’ll have to forgive me if I read this one….if I order it from the library will that make you feel better? 🙂


    • You SHOULD read it! I thought this was a fun way to spread the word and poke a little fun at my pokey self.
      I’m not doing bio, but my future book would look like some of the chapters. Now I have more to read!


      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Unless it’s a pretty comprehensive overlap (which can be devastating for dissertation-writers), it has a lot of good sides, too – seeing your line of thought tested and/or confirmed by someone else having followed it independently, giving the possibility to take thing further or deeper in interaction with someone else’s work, leaving you space for more about something else by being able to refer to what the other has accomplished rather than needing to cover that whole ground yourself…

        Liked by 1 person

  5. mitchteemley says:

    Lewis’s expression “chronological snobbery” comes to mind.


    • In the post or the original book?
      I think asking a question of TODAY of a culture from YESTERDAY always has dangers.


    • All political correctness is initiated by “chronological snobs”. “Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.” [Theodore Dalrymple]


      • Intriguing quotation. I’m still struggling to see the link between this book, or my silly announcement, and chronological snobbery or its insidious partner.


        • I think, and forgive me if I am wrong, “mitchteemley”, like Lewis, was saying that before “asking a question of TODAY of a culture from YESTERDAY” you should be certain that where you have evolved to is indeed progress when compared to what you have evolved from. Perhaps we would do better to stand in Lewis’s shoes and ask questions about why our societiy imagines that there should be any merit in a critical analysis of how he lived with the opposite sex.


          • It’s a great question to ask. I actually approach the past like I approach another culture.
            But Lewis invites this analysis, I think. Biographically, he evolves in his understanding of women. During his life universities integrate and he works with women, thus radically altering the university experience. Lewis speaks of “man” in ways that need explaining today, and Lewis wrote about women as writers and women in church ministry.
            I don’t think the critical analysis itself is problematic. The egalitarian, complementarian, evangelical, atheist, feminist, and other cultural starting points of today could be problematic, if unrecognized.
            What I reject in the blanket “chronological snobbery” is the assumption that each or any author things we have progressed, necessarily. That’s what the papers are there to clarify I think.


  6. This is hilarious, Brenton…and flattering! Thanks so much. Laughing my head off…


  7. Interesting! I’ll have to pick it up. I tend to find Lewis’ treatment of female characters to be actually very feminist in nature, even as he depicts highly unfeminist societies. What I mean by that is he doesn’t stereotype them anymore than he stereotypes the male characters, and instead gives them the same level of richness and depth, even as they navigate gender roles. The only cases where the female characters feel underdeveloped are where the male characters are also. But I may be reading too charitably.


  8. tess says:

    I’ve had “Women and the Inklings” on my “to-buy-if-I-can-ever-spare-$118” list— do you think this book is a reasonable substitute, or entirely different? You’ve already convinced me to buy it. 🙂


    • Great question!
      For $30 or less you can get an essay book with 20 or so essays from that many different authors. It’s only about C.S. Lewis, but it is a good approach.
      The duo that writes “Women Among the Inklings” make a different kind of book–a very academic book with a strong theoretical framework. It would be good to read–could your library get it for you from another library?


  9. I enjoyed and recommend Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J.R.R. Tolkien by Janet Brennan Croft and Leslie A. Donovan. It’s a wonderful read, scholarly but accessible, and lists for about $20. Thanks to Diana Pavlac Glyer, author of Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the Creative Collaboration of the Inklings, and also The Company They Keep, for alerting me to Perilous and Fair.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Now, if you’re willing to spend some money (or, more likely, ask your library to spring for these), I HIGHLY recommend wonderful books by Dr. Monika B. Hilder at Trinity Western University (yes, Brent, she’s a fellow Canadian), namely: The Feminine Ethos in CSL’s Chronicles of Narnia, Surprised by the Feminine, and The Gender Dance. Worth every hard-earned dollar! (By the way, Monika is one of our brilliant contributors to Women and C.S. Lewis: What his life and literature reveal for today’s culture, which is the original topic of Brent’s post!)

    Liked by 1 person

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