That Hideous Graph: Joe Hoffman Enhances the Data from my C.S. Lewis Writing Schedule Cheatsheet

Over the last couple of years, I have been slowly applying lessons from the Digital Humanities to my work. Part of that project has been rethinking C.S. Lewis’ bibliography. Specifically, I wanted to shift my thinking from when a book was published to when Lewis was working on various writing projects.

Lewis was a quick writer, and sometimes that timeframe was short, like the two weeks he took on vacation to write The Pilgrim’s Regress in 1932. Other projects took years, like the Oxford History of English Literature volume, 16th Century Literature, Excluding Drama, which took 20 years from commision to publication and earned its nickname, OHEL. Other books were lifetime commitments, like his “Prolegomena” lectures in the early 1930s that developed over time to the last book Lewis would complete, his absolutely essential The Discarded Image. Lewis’ book-writing schedule, then, ranged from 2 weeks to 3 decades, and a simple bibliography won’t do.

That is why I made the “Cheat Sheet,” allowing me to chart Lewis’ activities and draw conclusions. My post, “The Periods of C.S. Lewis’ Literary Life,” is an example of the kind of subtle shift that careful attention to data can allow. This month I found Jane Chance’s Tolkien, Self and Other “This Queer Creature” (2016), which leans on critical theory and an approach to Tolkien’s writing like my approach to Lewis’ literary project. An example of the deceptiveness of only using a bibliographic timeline is evident in Chance’s book, which was published on such-and-such a date in 2016, but represents decades of work and years of papers.

Ultimately, I am building a timeline that will show C.S. Lewis’ writing schedule in visual form, including the essays and major poems. I don’t anticipate that I’ll complete that project for a couple of years, but I threw my data model out into the blogosphere to see what others would come up with. Joe Hoffman answered that call–not with new analysis based on my graphics, but by creating his own graphic of the periods of Lewis’ life and the kind of writing he did with a subtly different metric. The vertical axis is the sum of the number of works Lewis had in progress that year, each divided by the number of years in which he was working on it.

I would encourage you to check out his entire post here, which is funny and suggestive of future work. Joe even threatens to use a Gantt chart, which is what the primitive version of my timeline will look like.

This is the world of Digital Humanities: an open approach to building knowledge. Now it’s your turn.

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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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24 Responses to That Hideous Graph: Joe Hoffman Enhances the Data from my C.S. Lewis Writing Schedule Cheatsheet

  1. Melinda Johnson says:

    I love this idea! I love knowing what people were doing and thinking as they write and of course there will be overlaps and times when an unfinished project gets set aside while something new or different comes up. How fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Your previous two posts look so inviting that I have refrained from plunging into either, yet, but have been meaning at least to express my gratitude and admiration for the undertaking, for which this seems a good opportunity, adding Joe Hoffman’s contribution to my – how to put it adequately – perilous larder of anticipated goodies?

    Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Arend Smilde has unsystematically noted from time to time the need for us not to jump to too-easy conclusions about the development of Lewis’s thought from evidence of various published expressions, while (as far as I recall) not being too insistent in another direction.

      I am reminded in general of Dorothy L. Sayers in her Introduction to The Man Born to Be King about her distribution of “the parables and the sayings” over the various Plays: “There is, however, no reason to suppose that each story was told on one occasion only. On the contrary, it seems most likely that they were repeated over and over again – sometimes in identical words, sometimes with variations” – with an interesting footnote comparing the practice of the Sadhu Sundar Singh (according to Streeter and Appasamy).

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      • Could I press in a bit on this, because I have been working on an idea? Are you cautioning about saying, “Ah, there in Mar 1941, Lewis said X for the first time, so it is the first time he thought X?”

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        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Yes, in general – and especially with reference to works he published during his lifetime. There may of course happen to be clear evidence anywhere that indicates he thought of X for the first time shortly before mentioning it (in an article, chapter, etc., as well as a letter). And there is probably always – especially as far as what’s been published posthumously as well as by him – what appears to be his first known reference to X. And it seems to me worth considering earlier and later datable references to X – is he making a different use of it, or, have his thoughts about X seemed to have changed, etc.?

          I’m just trying to be cautious about the interrelations between first known reference to X and the first time he thought X.

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          • It’s a worthy caution. He tried writing his autobiography several times between 1930 and 1954, and then it finally landed. Narnia was maybe 5-7 years (longer in images). Allegory of Love morphed a bit before it settled into what it became. Till We Have Faces was conceived in childhood, then came alive when he was 55.
            It’s a great caution. I wonder if my timeline could accommodate that….

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  3. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hannah says:

    A question re: “….sometimes that timeframe was short, like the two weeks he took on vacation to write The Pilgrim’s Progress in 1932 …” -> Lewis called his version “The Pilgrim’s Regress”, so is it known why he changed ‘Progress’ into ‘Regress’? (& when 😉 ?)

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    • Ha, yeah, just a typo I’m afraid. No big hidden literary secret.

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      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I just read what I expected, the first time – ‘Regress’! But it’s now got me thinking about that very interesting word-choice. I’ve recently been seeing (and have tended to adopt, myself) the terminology of ‘reverts’, etc., of those who return to their earlier faith. And now I’m wondering what-all sorts of play with ‘regress’ and regression’, etc., Lewis may be engaging in, here. For example, psychological uses? Political/ideological ones? How much of a Socratic gadfly and/or midwife may Lewis consciously be, in choosing that noun?

        And, might his 1952 poem, ‘Pilgrim’s Problem’, be seen as a play with that same matter and imagery of ‘regress’ and its propriety and need?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, I have been wondering this myself, and I think there might be multiple answers. “Regress” as a parody of Freudianism works. But I think, unlike Bunyan’s pilgrim who keeps moving to the celestial city, the principle of Lewis is the return–both the “reversion” of childhood faith (transformed) but also the evangelistic return (or, perhaps if I understand the allegory, his role of cultural warrior).
          Dunno.

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          • Hannah says:

            I have always wondered about Lewis’s word choice and play on Bunyan’s title, hence my question. So google just now found me this interesting explanation on the blogpost:
            https://davidscommonplacebook.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/the-pilgrims-regress/
            that it is meant to evoke Bunyan’s title – which according to Oxford Dictionaries means ‘to bring or recall (a feeling, memory, or image) to the conscious mind – like revisiting Bunyan’s Pilgrim? The rest of the post is also interesting.

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            • Hannah says:

              so regress as an evoking/revisiting, instead of being the opposite of progress (moving backwards), which was so puzzling in Lewis’s title … A revisiting makes much more sense ! 😉

              Liked by 1 person

            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              Thanks for the link – it is indeed interesting!

              “Eventually John submits to Mother Kirk, representing the Church, and learns that the object of his longing is the country that he has left. He is taken back to his home” – interesting to think none of the imagery of ends and beginnings of Eliot’s Four Quartets had been published, yet – and that “the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time” did not appear till 1942. But The Wizard of Oz also sprang to mind – all examples of a great motif?

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              • hannahdemiranda3 says:

                Re “…..and learns that the object of his longing is the country that he has left….. “:
                So, the title could (also) be referring to a backward/forward – an end/beginning movement after all?
                In, that John actually progresses by regressing/returning to the country he had left, in submitting “to Mother Kirk…”, and at last finds there the source of the Joy he had been longing and searching for in all those other countries … (Sehnsucht)?

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      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Branching off a bit, but perhaps in a relevant way, and not having started with the good homework of rereading The Pilgrim’s Regress – or anything else – I wonder how much the ‘regress’ does – or may – or not – have anything intentionally to do with Baptism. And that, in turn, raises the thought of following themes from work to work (and in letters, etc.). And, of attending to factors involved in why something may or may not be treated, and how, if it is.

        In his Preface to Mere Christianity, Lewis gives some detailed attention to his “silence on certain matters.” In doing so, he says “there is no secret” about his “own beliefs”: “To quote Uncle Toby [in Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy]: ‘They are written in the Common-Prayer Book.'” Leaving on one side the cheeky aspects of quoting this, the version of that Book at the time imagined (1713) and when Lewis wrote, was the same: 1662. In “The Ministration of Publick Baptism of Infants” there, the faithful are invited to give thanks “Seeing […] that this Child is regenerate” and God the Father thanked “that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Infant with thy Holy Spirit”. Not uncontroversial!

        Sometime in the same year, 1943, Williams began All Hallows’ Eve in the form we know it, Lewis wrote his his new Preface for the Third Edition of The Pilgrim’s Regress. A significant explicit feature of Williams’s novel is the effect of a secret infant baptism by a lay woman. There may have been some interesting Inklings conversation if or when he read the relevant parts out – but as far as I know, there is no record of it! But had John ‘regressed’ in a distinctive sense, because baptized as an infant? Did Lewis believe he had, himself? Somebody has – various folk have – probably traced and discussed such things, but I don’t know who or where or with what results.

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        • hannahdemiranda3 says:

          Interesting thought, but I would rather go with the other two meanings of Regressing: The Revisiting of Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress and the Returning to the country he had left, finding there the object of his longing – this as it is in combination with the word Pilgrim .. an adult, not a child?

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  5. Joel Heck says:

    My document, “The Complete Works of C. S. Lewis,” is available in pdf form on my website, in case you’re interested and didn’t know about it. Everything is dated, to the extent that I could discover the date.

    Like

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