Girls, Boys, and the Maps in Their Heads: A Reflection on Narnia

I walk around with a map in my head. Or at least I try to. I have driven in Tokyo, Manhattan, Vancouver, Kobe, Toronto, Chicago, Montreal, and–most terrifying of all–Wales. There were times in the wilds of Japan or BC that I got a bit mentally confused, twisting up and down mountainsides and valley on the way to some shrine or hipster organic food colony. And I once took a wrong turn walking through London. But generally, I have inherited from my father a pretty good sense of mental geography, and not just a little luck.

Honestly, though, a lot of that good navigation is preparation and good map-reading. Making wrong turns, even with an internal compass, is tiresome and wasteful. Plus, the National Institute of Made-up Statistics (NIMS) says that 31.3% of fights in the car begin with this sentence: “I’m not lost! I just haven’t figured out where I am yet!” So a lot of that map-in-my-head instinct is frankly a commitment to having the right tools at hand. The hunches and risks of an internally compassed guide are usually working hand-in-hand with a map or a pretty good app.

My wife does not share my sense of direction. She has become a pretty good map reader over the years, and we are an excellent team during a road trip. But after a decade in our south-facing home with the sun rising to the east and setting on the west, leaving beautiful golden warmth in our front porch, if I say “the north side of the house” she still hesitates. I don’t think she is terribly unusual among urbanites of our age. I am the one is out of step by saying things like “the north side of the house” when front and back would do just fine.

And in an age of apps that walk us from the unknown wilds to our cozy destination in a few easy steps, what good is the map inside my head, really?

For King Edmund the Just of Narnia, though, this compass-deficit is a boundary-line between girls and boys in all worlds. Prince Caspian is a book of wanderings, a wilderness echo of the biblical book of Numbers, where the choice to ignore the directions of Lucy will lead the heroes into a longer, more dangerous journey. Before the Pevensies and Trumpkin the Dwarf find their way to Lucy’s point of view, however, Edmund drops one of the more petulant sexist moments in the series:

“That’s the worst of girls,” said Edmund to Peter and the Dwarf. “They never carry a map in their heads” (Prince Caspian, ch. 2).

The irony of Edmund criticizing Lucy for her sense of direction is one of the critical foundations of an entire book that is about leadership. Peter and Susan refuse to submit to Lucy’s leadership, and they find themselves lost in a way that could be–perhaps is–fatal for some faithful Old Narnians. The entire book critiques Edmund’s sexism on precisely this point, and Alicia Burrus notes that “Jill’s marked competence” in The Last Battle–Jill Pole goes on to become a strong marksman and an excellent scout–is a kind of rebuke to Edmund’s tiresome beliefs about boys and girls (“Gender Differentiation and Gender Hierarchy in C.S. Lewis,” 30).

As Monika Hilder notes in The Feminine Ethos in C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Edmund is not the only character that goes to easy “girl” stereotypes to limit Lucy’s leadership. Susan calls Lucy the “worst,” “naughty,” and someone who has “no right” to lead the group. Hilder is right in noting that one of the challenges of Prince Caspian is for the characters to recognize the wisdom of Lucy’s leadership. Instead, they are looking around hard for classical, masculine models of leadership–the brawny, woodsy kind of leadership where people know the points of the compass even if they can’t spot the ultimate Guide: Aslan.

It is intriguing that when Lewis slides into the text with his own voice, he is not as confident as the boys in his books. “It’s an extraordinary thing about girls that they never know the points of the compass,” Eustace Scrubb says to Jill Pole when she can’t point him east. While Lewis says that Jill doesn’t have a compass in her head, he admits that “I don’t know about girls in general” (Silver Chair, ch. 1-2). He probably didn’t know, and perhaps still doesn’t.

Plus, for all Edmund is dismissive of girls for getting turned around in a woods, before he ascended to the throne at Cair Paravel, he had his own difficulty with directions. Beyond the fact that the entire first book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is about the moral compass that people carry around in their heads, Edmund had a wee bit of trouble about simple directions. After following Lucy into her “make-believe” country inside the wardrobe:

He jumped in and shut the door, forgetting what a very foolish thing this is to do. Then he began feeling about for Lucy in the dark. He had expected to find her in a few seconds and was very surprised when he did not. He decided to open the door again and let in some light. But he could not find the door either. He didn’t like this at all and began groping wildly in every direction; he even shouted out, “Lucy! Lu! Where are you? (ch. 3).

He couldn’t find the door? How big is a wardrobe, if it really is a wardrobe? No bigger than a cart horse or a young elephant. Edmund mocked the girls for getting confused in untamed wilderness while he got lost in a 4’x8′ wardrobe.

Perhaps that bit of irony is a wee bit too easy. And we don’t even have to wait for the deeper resonances of the book as a whole to punch back against Edmund’s childhood chauvinism. He makes his complaint about “the worst of girls” living in mental maplessness, and Lucy shoots back without missing a beat:

“That’s because our heads have something inside them,” said Lucy (Prince Caspian, ch. 2).

It’s a zinger, and Edmund deserved it. But Lucy’s answer is really a kind of reverse sexism, isn’t it? It occurs once more, as the adventurers are on the edge of a brawl on Goldwater Island (later Deathwater Island). As Kings Edmund and Caspian–really good friends in unenchanted places–are near to blows, Lucy cries out:

“Oh, stop it, both of you,” said Lucy. “That’s the worst of doing anything with boys. You’re all such swaggering, bullying idiots – oooh! -” Her voice died away into a gasp. And everyone else saw what she had seen (Voyage of the Dawn Treader, ch. 8).

Just as Lucy falls precisely into Edmund’s trap of talking about the “worst” of the other sex, Aslan appears on the hillside, silencing them of their petty words.

When we think about sex and gender, there are really troubling things in Narnia. There are individual bits, like Father Christmas‘ weird statement about women at war or all those fat-legged girls and piggish boys in Prince Caspian. Some of those moments require close rereading, though. I think Susan’s exit in The Last Battle is inelegant and false to the series, and Lewis’ symbols of lipstick and parties is a tiresome trope. However, I think there is more going on. And a closer reading of Mrs. Beaver will put accusations of “fussiness” in another light.

While there are some things to be concerned about when reading Narnia to kids today, two things are worth noting.

First, there is a lot of interesting upside-downness in Narnia that really challenges how we understand power. The leadership thing and Lucy, for example, shows how quickly we are to value traits we think of as manly (like map reading and swords) and how easily we ignore traits we think of as womanly (like healing and spiritual vision). The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a book where Lucy shows steady wisdom and judgment, even when other characters lose their ability to lead. This maturity, and the humble growth in characters like Eustace, Edmund, Jill, and Digory, is critical to the way that Lewis changes the rules of the game in Narnia.

Narnia is a place where tears, friendship, curiosity, hope, obedience, and humble courage are prime values and key tools for success. Frankly, we think some things are sexist or problematic because we have bought sexist and problematic ideas about power and leadership with us into Narnia.

Second, I wish that Lewis was even more transformed in Narnia by his own upsidedown spirituality. After showing great leadership and wisdom in Prince Caspian–and taking great risks–Lucy is not invited into the council of the king. She is not valueless in the revolution, but as a result the entire council misses the wisdom she can offer–wisdom only Lucy can offer, the wisdom of a girl, a woman, a queen, and someone with particularly acute spiritual perspective. It is the wisdom of an especially Aslanic tang, but Caspian’s court will miss that wisdom in a moment of great need. More than once in Dawn Treader that wisdom saved them or enriched their experience.

The roles in Narnia often fall along gender lines. I don’t know why this would be surprising for a male author in the early 50s who never had sisters or a mother, whose primary companions were his brother and fellow dons, and who worked in an almost entirely masculine environment.

I am not condemning, nor am I defending. Instead, I am suggesting that if Lewis could see the transformative vision of his own upsidedown spirituality enough to let it infiltrate all of Narnian leadership, so much would have been gained–both for the children in Narnia and the boys and girls reading the books then and today.

Unfortunately, the mental map Lewis had of gender and sex roles was more powerful than his own curiosity and spiritual perspective that liked to play with those roles in unexpected–and often prophetic–ways. It is a loss in a fine series. Because, after all, boys and girls–readers, writers, and adventurers of all kinds–walk around with all kinds of things in their heads.

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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166 Responses to Girls, Boys, and the Maps in Their Heads: A Reflection on Narnia

  1. Catherine B. says:

    It’s refreshing to read something like this that takes an open-minded approach to the conflicts between the sexes. I also love the parallel that you’ve made between an inner directional compas, and a moral compas.

    Story writing seems to be the process of trying step out of our own perspectives with the desire to understand the world through different eyes, and I think that this was the reason that C.S. Louis stated that in general, he didn’t know much about girls. He was trying to portray the feminine mind, and feminine strength as realistically as possible, but he knew as a man that he couldn’t do this perfectly. However, as a girl myself who has read the Narnia series and listened to the stories on CD’s during road trips, I’d say that he did an excellent job.

    I’m facing the opposite puzzle to what C.S. Lewis had faced when It comes to writing my short stories. I’m an aspiring female author who is trying to figure out through my male characters what true masculine strength, and virtue is while doing my best not to project my own biases, and the biases of the world onto these guys. It’s like all of my characters are learning along with me, male and female, about what intentions, words, and actions can help them to find harmony, and humility amongst each other. It’s like trying to crack a code. It’s quite the experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Catherine B. says:

      Oops, I think that I have misspelled ‘C.S. Lewis’ in the second paragraph of my comment. :/ My bad!

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    • Thanks Catherine for this note! I think I’m more concerned about the conflict on the conflict between the sexes, than the actual conflict. For my part in the war of the sexes, I lay down my arms (as much as I can). What do I have left to win that a woman must lose so that I can have it? Nothing that I can imagine (except maybe parking spots, but that’s more or less anyone in my way!).
      As far as “masculine strength” goes, I think the greatest example of that strength is what we often think of as feminine. In the face of great power and strength, and with great power himself, Christ surrendered to the powerful, taking death upon himself for the sake of others. I think that self-surrender is the reality at the centre of true love, and is the model of all true strength. It is true, we may have to pick up swords or pens or ploughs to do powerful work, but it begins in the giving of the self.
      That’s me, in my view.
      And I often misspell things!

      Liked by 4 people

      • Please just confirm for me Brenton:
        Your view really is – thinking that raising the profile of a “mere abstraction” like “gender inequality” is warfare?.
        Your view really is – thinking that someone who “lays down their arms (as much as they can)” and thinks that there is “nothing left to win except maybe parking spots” is remotely qualified to even begin criticizing the “mind-set or mind-maps” of another who was badly wounded experiencing first hand “the horrors of first world war trench warfare” and the objective realities of “the horribly smashed men still moving like half-crushed beetles, the sitting or standing corpses, the landscape of sheer earth without a blade of grass”, a man totally devoted to and responsible for, providing for, and caring for, an older woman because of a promise he’d made to a dead friend ?
        Really?

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        • … no, I don’t think so. You said these things, not me, and I think you have an inference in them that I don’t know how to address or react to. I don’t know how to respond, except this.
          I am a historian and critic of Lewis, and there will always be places where he is more moral, intelligent, educated, informed, or hopeful than I am. But he had limitations too. Among those limitations are his views of gender. His view that women are too emotionally unstable in the defence of their offspring to represent the community interests of the family–to serve as foreign affairs minister of the brood–is utter nonsense. Lewis takes ideas of ideal gender from classical periods or medieval thought and applies them too quickly to real life. He wrote, “whether the male is, or is not, the superior sex, the masculine is certainly the superior gender” (Preface to Paradise Lost, 113). That is not “mere Christianity,” but the imagination of a WWII-era Christian deeply committed to learning from other ages and too quickly taking ideas about gender and making them part of the real world. Plus, he admitted he had limited experience with girls, and his own friends chided him on his experience with children in general.
          So I don’t question his duty or morality, or erase his experience. But there was more in the world, and in Christian faith, than this one individual can see.
          On the other side, I think the central idea of Lewis’ faith is the idea of self-surrender, of dying in the world like Jesus did on the cross, the death that comes before resurrection–“death is at the root of the matter” he said on the eve of his conversion. This great turning around of power is his most biblically-soaked perspective and it is infused all through his work, so that even his main work of literary theory is about self-death before the text. This works through his fiction by turning things around. Most obviously in Screwtape, but Ransom is an unlikely hero, Mark and Jane must die to self and surrender to one another, Eustace must die to his self and mortify the flesh (by Aslan’s power), Diggory, Edmund, Caspian, Jill, Orual–all follow the pattern of Aslan who lays down his life in the face of power for the sake of others.
          That great, subversive power is the centre of his work and his work is most magical when it is present in his fiction. Orual’s story is the greatest pattern, but it is all throughout in myriad ways. There are times to fight and assert in Narnia and the Ransom universe, but they come after the moment of surrender–to God, to Aslan, to truth, to humility.
          So when it comes to gender roles in his fiction, he is most engaging and the action takes the greatest adventurous turns when the actions of the text follow this cross-like/stone table-like turn: when Peter and others surrenders to Lucy’s leadership, when Lucy repents for not asserting her individuality, when Eustace allows Aslan to undress him, when Digory denies his own greatest wish, when Jane and Mark risk everything, when Orual turns to die before she dies, when Aslan takes the weight of violence upon his body.
          I dare to say that, but I may be wrong in daring and sayin.
          And I certainly don’t think ‘that raising the profile of a “mere abstraction” like “gender inequality” is warfare’, though I may not understand what you mean, precisely.

          Liked by 2 people

          • My only inference in my previous quote is perhaps a suggestion that we should use dialectic rather than rhetoric when questioning the facets of an individual personal character we do not know personally. If we must use rhetoric our rhetoric should actually remain within the borders of objective, observable reality.
            Comparing fictitious dialogue in a novel in order to mine for examples or inferences of rhetoric that contradict or conflict with our own personal “abstract universal” such as “sexism” (a label for a form of groupthink), is scraping the barrel to construct enthymemes – which are not proper logical syllogisms, but incomplete or invalid arguments that merely take the form of syllogisms, and in which all that matters is that persuasion is achieved by means of the “proof” provided, or more accurately, the apparent proof provided, which is no proof in reality.

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            • I appreciate the criticism.

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            • Dorothea says:

              Patrick. To me it is apparent that you are well-versed in philosophical logic and criticism. However, your suggestion of “if we use rhetoric, our rhetoric should actually remain within the borders of objective, observable reality” does not make sense when talking about language, and especially about literary fiction, which are, by their very nature, outside of these borders of objective, observable reality. I respect your criticism in regards to an esoteric conversation about the utility of talking about literature, but if we have a stake in analyzing literature and relating it to the world that constructs the text and the reader’s reception of it, then your argument, to me, seems invalid.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Dorothea, actually I am not well-versed in philosophical logic and criticism, but my suggestion that our talk remain within the “borders of objective, observable reality” makes proper logical sense when you consider that our conversation was not limited to analyzing and discussing only language and/or literary fiction, if it was, I would agree with you entirely, and would probably not have joined the conversation.
                Were we not, however, analyzing and trying to answer the question of whether Lewis had a character limitation, ie. his inability to consider modern memes, “ism’s” or ideologies, and that if he did have that ability his literature would be even more relevant and valuable to today’s readers?

                I think it was Lewis or Chesterton that said – “One of the falsehoods that has been stuffed into your brain and pounded into place is that moral knowledge progresses inevitably, such that later generations are morally and intellectually superior to earlier generations, and that the older the source the more morally suspect that source is. There is a term for that. It is called chronological snobbery.”

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              • Dorothea says:

                Hmm. I see. Thank you for explaining, Patrick. I wonder if our difference of opinions is perhaps a difference in how literature is studied since the cultural/political turn. And I had to grin a bit at the quote. I definitely fall victim to chronological snobbery sometimes, but I’m working on that.

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              • Dorothea says:

                (I also struggle with the reverse, thinking that the older practices of reading and writing about literature are superior, since they engaged far more with the text than the context, but somewhere in between the balance must be found).

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              • I find “both, and” provides the best balance. If you don’t have “both,and” you run the risk of regressive rather than progressive movement of culture through –“The rejection of traditional values in favour of the latest principle of general destruction for the sake of “the ultimate good” [Fyodor Dostoevsky]

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              • I like Lewis’s advice on how literature should be studied, it includes and anticipates “both, and” …

                “I have been told that there are people who want a study of literature wholly free from the love and knowledge of words (philology). Perhaps such people exist. If they do, they are either crying for the moon or resolving on a lifetime of persistent and carefully guarded delusion.
                If we read any literature with insufficient regard for change in the dictionary meanings and even the overtones of words since it date; if, in fact, we are content with whatever effect the words accidentally produce in our modern minds, then of course we do not read the work the old writer intended. What we get may still be, in my opinion, a book; but it will be our book, not his.” [C S Lewis]

                In what way does your personal “modern method” the one developed since the “cultural/political turn” differ, and which cultural/political turn do altered it in your mind?

                Liked by 1 person

              • Sorry, the question should be – which cultural/political turn altered it in your mind?

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              • Dorothea says:

                I think to answer your question, I need to go back to one of your earlier questions that I did not acknowledge properly in my last reply:
                “Were we not, however, analyzing and trying to answer the question of whether Lewis had a character limitation, ie. his inability to consider modern memes, “ism’s” or ideologies, and that if he did have that ability his literature would be even more relevant and valuable to today’s readers?”
                This is not what we were doing. Rather, we were examining something in the social climate of C.S. Lewis’ contemporary time that was not acknowledged properly at the time, but is being considered now due to a heightened awareness of the social inequalities that in fact existed at his time, which we since then trying to rectify. (gender inequality, as we know, was addressed quite some time before that, but in Lewis’ world, for example, women still could not earn degrees from Oxbridge). This is what I mean by a modern method. That is, we are interested in the role authors/works play in ideological/political/social conversations rather than a primary consideration of the words they have written. So, given the quote you bring up from Lewis, it would seem that he would quite agree. However, the question is: which words do we example more closely?
                The cultural turn, which is a really vaguely timed period of transition of literary studies, encourages the literary critic/reader to not just see the text as mediators for understanding linguistic phenomena but also cultural ones.

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              • After all our analysis of authors/works and how they play out in ideological/political/social conversations, what do the Feminists, the Hegelians, the Marxists, and modern philosophy bring to the table to offer as a replacement for “the existing reality” what do they propose that is new in “human nature” or different to what the Romans, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth (who proved to be no better or worse than their male predecessors) brought to the table?

                What makes them think they will succeed where countless empires, cultures, societies, “geists” and individuals have tried and failed to create an “alternative reality” and ended up as cruel brutes? After all is said and done we have to live with the results or our actions and we are now living on the back of the only civilization that has initiated and permitted the real conditions to exist which allow a Lewis or a Germaine Greer to come up with what they have.

                Reversing the sexes or the sexual organs in the following quotes alters nothing – “When mortal men try to live without God they infallibly succumb to megalomania or erotomania or both. The raised fist or the raised phallus; eg. Nietzsche or D.H.Lawrence.” [Malcom Muggeridge] … and “Here is a simple but profound rule. If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.” [Francis Schaeffer]

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              • Dorothea says:

                I think somehow our replies got a bit mixed up. But I see that as far as discussions go, the discussions are not really new. In fact, I am surprised over an over to come across texts front the 15th through 20th centuries that bring up the same issues about nationhood, identity, belonging, etc. (which are more my fields of study) as today. However, I think it’s institutions and structures of power that keep changing (or not changing, just being reiterated). I am not quite sure what to do with you doubting that contemporary thinkers can change something about our communities, that we should, maybe, just passively live with God?

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              • “Propositions arrived at purely by logical means are completely empty as regards reality” [Albert Eienstein]

                My doubts come from the lessons of history, these contemporary philosophers, politicians, and thinkers you speak about have always arrogantly thought that their own personal idea of institutions and systems of power have never been tried properly until they have the power, and take charge of them, and then they are the first …

                “contemptible slave, the stinking, depraved flunkey who will first climb a ladder with scissors in his hands, and slash to pieces the divine image of the great ideal, in the name of equality, envy, and” … put your own “ism” here, … and then …“Every member of the society spies on the others, and it’s his duty to inform against them. Every one belongs to all and all to every one. All are slaves and equal in their slavery. In extreme cases he advocates slander and murder, but the great thing about it is equality. To begin with, the level of education, science, and talents is lowered. A high level of education and science is only possible for great intellects, and they are not wanted. The great intellects have always seized the power and been despots. Great intellects cannot help being despots and they’ve always done more harm than good. They will be banished or put to death. Cicero will have his tongue cut out, Copernicus will have his eyes put out, Shakespeare will be stoned—that’s Shigalovism. Slaves are bound to be equal. There has never been either freedom or equality without despotism, but in the herd there is bound to be equality,.” [Fyodor Dostoevsky]

                The two question remain –
                1. What have these contemporary thinkers, who you think can change something about our communities, brought to the table to offer as a replacement for “the existing reality”, and,
                2. Why do they think they will succeed where countless empires, cultures, societies, “geists” and individuals have tried and failed to create an “alternative reality”?

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              • Dorothea says:

                I like the Dostoevsky quote, but I wouldn’t evoke him in this context, because he’s coming from 19th century Russia, which was a swell place for the Tsars and anyone who worked/aligned themselves with him and not many others. Even the cynic must realize that whatever democracy we have now, to whatever extent it’s truly democratic, we still have a lot more stability in our political system and freedom in our personal lives. And I don’t agree with Dostoevsky, but I understand where he’s coming for. And I’m not sure if I should just let this discussion rest, because no one here is talking about an alternative reality, but rather making changes to the existing one, but 1) I think policy changes, shifts in material taught in institutions, shifts in discourse about how people talk to and about one another are all changes. 2) I think they will succeed because history has shown me how others have succeeded before them, and how things have changed.

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              • Dorothea, everyone here is talking about an “alternative reality”, yourself included – “As a man thinketh, so is he, is really most profound … He has a mind, an inner world. Then having thought, a person can bring forth actions into the external world, and thus influence it … People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves realize” [Francis Schaeffer]

                I think in my previous quote I agreed with you that we are now living on the back of the only civilization that has initiated and permitted the real conditions to exist which allow a Lewis or a Germaine Greer to come up with what they have, and this is the status quo these people want to change from or remove.

                If you knew where Dostoevsky was coming from, and believe me, there is no more qualified person to quote in this context than Dostoevsky, then you would do more to confirm that, what you want to change to is an improvement on what you want us to change from.

                My quotes from Malcolm Muggeridge and Francis Schaeffer are contemporary but I also think that the history lessons from 19th century Russia have a lot to offer anyone who is not a chronological snob.

                You say you “think they will succeed because history has shown me how others have succeeded before them, and how things have changed” then you are right on two counts:-
                1. History (especially 19th century Russian history where this methodology originated ) shows us that wherever these people who think every dimension of life is about “power” have succeeded, millions die for their ideologies and their cruel, inhumane and regressive natures.
                2. Perhaps we should just let this discussion rest because you are still not clarifying exactly what is being brought to the table or why you think it will succeed where everyone else has failed and until you do so – “Quarreling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are.” [CS Lewis].

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              • Dorothea says:

                Patrick, 2. I think we do agree on what is right and wrong, but we disagree on how to practice it. And the reason I have a difficulty in clarifying exactly what is being brought to the table is because I am drawing upon present voices, which are varied and diverse and therefore difficult to categorize and sometimes to see past, whereas you seem to like to draw on past voices, no less diverse, but somehow these have already been neatly categorized and given value. 1. I am grappling with the tendencies of some who seem to think some must suffer in order for a social-political-economic revolution to happen. While I see that whenever people who have power have succeeded because millions have died for it, or must die for it after they have it, I don’t think this is a result of thinking every dimension of life is about power. Unfortunately, when others are in power over one, it is difficult to say that the other aspects of life are just as important. But with this, we are straying far and beyond Brenton’s original post. I will need to visit your blog sometime. I will try not to comment anymore, here.

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              • Dorothea, I apologize unreservedly if my postings have made you consider not commenting on this blog, in no way were they intended to personally offend you or make you consider stopping.

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              • Dorothea says:

                no no! Patrick, you misunderstood me! And I’m sorry to accidentally make you think so. I just do not know if I can continue this conversation on this post at this time- it has given me a lot to think about and I appreciate what you have shared, and your questions have made me think deeper about my own standings. However, I just wanted to say why I would probably not reply anymore to comments on this post after this. Sorry!

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              • Dorothea says:

                But to respond directly to the quote, I think it’s an important point that Lewis makes about understanding the words in the author’s context, not ours, and C.S. Lewis was not the only, nor the first to say that.

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              • Dorothea says:

                sorry. I’m missing an “are” and the one “example” should be “examining”

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              • Hannah says:

                This sentence “…. when talking about language, and especially about literary fiction, which are, by their very nature, outside of these borders of objective, observable reality” made me wonder how can fiction and especially language, can be outside of those borders and still make sense? Maybe literature like ‘the theatre of the absurd’ would be so, but then its purpose was to show the meaninglessness and absurdity of life.
                Might this be derived from the prevalent dichotomy between ‘objective scientific language and the language of ‘subjective’ humanities?

                Liked by 1 person

              • Dorothea says:

                Hannah, I was referring the nature of fiction to be able to tell things we cannot experience/observe in “real life” (i.e. forests at the back of wardrobes) and the nature of language to describe abstract things such as love, freedom, or even God. Though I can see what you mean as well, that it would be impossible to have something exist outside of conception. I am not sure if this distinction is something between scientific language ang the humanities.

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              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Footnote: By the time Lewis took his viva for ‘Greats’ on 28 August 1922, some 21 months had passed since the first degrees were conferred on women at Oxford:

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:First_women_admitted_to_degrees_at_Oxford

                This entailed such curious situations as (if Wikipedia is to be trusted, here) Una Ellis-Fermor becoming a Lecturer in English Literature at Bedford College, University of London, two years before getting her Oxford degree – joining Caroline Spurgeon there, who in 1913 had been appointed Hildred Carlisle Professor of English (but was not Oxbridge).

                Liked by 1 person

              • There is, I think, a space when women took the degree and examinations but received not the actual degree. But I’m fuzzy on that.

                Like

              • Dorothea says:

                that’s it! They just received a sheet of paper saying what they did, but did not officially have a degrees and were not accepted as full members of the college. At least not in Cambridge. You are right, Oxford was a little ahead on that matter… But the point is, the atmosphere among the elite universities in England at the time was largely exclusionary. I do want to reply to the other, more interesting points, but may not get to that before tomorrow or later this week.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Dorothea says:

                Or rather, they received their certificate, but were not accepted as members of the college as alumna (and therefore could not vote on the decisions concerning the universities for years afterwards.

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Yes – I’m not sure (and am not quickly succeeding in looking up) either how long that went on for…

                Liked by 1 person

              • Dorothea says:

                In Cambridge it was about 20 years. In Oxford it was less (or maybe even no time at all?). Here’s an interesting article about it from 1998. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/at-last-a-degree-of-honour-for-900-cambridge-women-1157056.html

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Dorothy writes, “But the point is, the atmosphere among the elite universities in England at the time was largely exclusionary.” That invites a lot of unpacking – I suppose the situation must have been complex and dynamic (if that’s an apt word), in that it changed in various formal respects (strikingly, as you note, at different times and speeds), but what of things like interrelations with other English universities, and with foreign universities (e.g., French, German, American), and with independent scholars, and what might be called ‘content’, or ‘substance’ in contrast to ‘form’ – the work produced by women, their scholarship? What spectra of “exclusionary” to ‘inclusionary’ were there, in these respects?

                For example, the Wikipediast tells us “Spurgeon’s 1911 Paris doctoral dissertation, Chaucer devant la critique en Angleterre et en France depuis son temps jusqu’ nos jours, which she published in three volumes in English in 1929, Five Hundred Years of Chaucer Criticism and Allusion, 1357–1900, secured her a lasting place in the history of scholarship on the Middle English author.” Study in Dresden and London, lecturing in London from 1900, doctorate from Paris,then “successfully competed for the newly created chair for English literature in 1913”. Who in Oxford was in what interaction with Caroline Spurgeon when the three Major Oxford Inklings were undergraduates?

                Again, of Edith Morley (saith the Wikipediast) “In 1892, she took a course at Kings College London Ladies Department, where her abilities were noticed and it was suggested that she transfer to the Oxford Honour School of English and English Literature, alongside Caroline F. E. Spurgeon. Although she was placed in the first class following examination in 1899, women were not allowed to matriculate from Oxford at the time and she was awarded an ‘equivalent’ degree rather than a standard Oxford degree”. (Ach, so, unreported in her own article, Caroline Spurgeon is here noted as an Oxonian after all…) This did not prevent her going on to teach “at King’s College in 1899, taking a class in Gothic and Germanic philology” and then to Reading, where in “1912, Morley was appointed Professor of English Language at University College in Reading” (which Chair she continued to occupy till 1940) meanwhile editing Hurd’s Letters on Chivalry and Romance, with The Third Elizabethan Dialogue for the OUP in 1911 (not long after Wiliams started working there). That other Oxford Inkling, Hugo Dyson, joined her department in 1924.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Dorothea says:

                Hello David, just a small note: my name is Dorothea, not Dorothy. And thank you for bringing up a few examples of exceptional women who managed to have their “abilities noticed” and go on in academia while still facing a lot of challenges (including administrative and prejudicial) that their male counterparts, often not as strong scholars as they were, did not have to contend with. You are right, the use of the word “exclusionary” was not accurate. Women were not excluded from participating in academics anymore by the late 19th century in many countries. However, there were systems of institutional power in place that continued to make choices about women in academia that these women were excluded from. I also don’t know if any of the Inklings interacted with Spurgeon in any way, but even if so, to say that if *insert a small quantity here* women out of 50% of the population managed to “make it” shows that the mindsets/institutions weren’t exclusionary in some way, then sure, they weren’t exclusionary, but they certainly weren’t very inclusive either.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Hi folks, thanks for this Dorothea and David. Perspective is a funny thing: when I am concerned about the exclusion of women, I want to press those structural things that made it difficult. But there are times I want to tell the good stories of women who strove and succeeded. I think both should sit together.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Dorothea says:

                I agree. I think both are important points of conversation. And I wish we could sit together! And when we do, let’s continue this conversation.

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                My apologies – it must be really my fault, as I do not have any ‘autocorrect’ on! (I know I kept catching myself metathesizing by way through ‘Morley’ every which way repeatedly – the feeble attempts at speed of the poor typist…)

                I don’t know enough to know how unusual the success of women as scholars on the basis of appreciation of their work, whether they were equally institutionally successful or not, was. It makes me the more interested to have a look at the books in the footnotes of the Morley and Spurgeon articles, if I have easy access to a good library again!

                For better or worse, one thinks easily of the spectacular fame of the independent scholar, Jessie Weston – though I have not had an opportunity to read the very interesting-looking 2017 article by my erstwhile fencing partner, Juliette Wood.

                I would be surprised if any of the Major Inklings (or others like Coghill, Bennett, Cecil, etc.) were not simply as easily, readily appreciative of good work by scholarly women as by scholarly men – do ‘we’ have any evidence to suggest otherwise?

                Liked by 2 people

              • Dorothea says:

                David, you are right. That we do not! And I am the last to suggest that they would not (that is, without further research I have no reason to think they would not). I do have reason to believe, however, that given the pervasive attitude towards women at the time, that the Inklings did not go out of their way to seek out the work of these women. At the same time, they may have been the first to seek these texts out. With Spurgeon being the major Chaucer scholar that she was, I can imagine that they could not look past her work. I do also have to thank you for pointing out these examples of female scholars. You’ve shifted my paradigm about this time period, as well.

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              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Another widely known and widely influential and well-regarded largely independent scholar, though according to Dana Greene in 1913 she “became an honorary fellow of King’s College of Women and in 1927 fellow of King’s College; in 1939 she received the honorary degree of D.D. from the university of Aberdeen” and according to Wikipedia was “one of the first woman theologians to lecture in English colleges and universities, which she did frequently”, is Evelyn Underhill. I’m not sure how wide-ranging and early her Inklings connections were, but I do know she corresponded with Lewis, Williams edited her Letters, and, according to Tolkien’s Gedling 1914: The Birth of a Legend (2008) by Andrew H. Morton and Johm Hayes, Tolkien’s dear aunt, Jane Neave, apparently lived in Chelmsford for a while “in order to be close to the religious retreats run by Evelyn Underhill”.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Dorothea says:

                hmm… okay, more shifting on my end. Here’s another example of female academic success: Dorothy Garrod, the first women to hold an academic chair at Cambridge in 1938. However, on the flip side, what can we derive from the fact that Evelyn Underhill was in the Women’s College of King’s College of London (so again, not Oxbirdge)? The first women students arrived at King’s in Cambridge in 1972. 1972! Though, I’m beginning to think, like you meant to show with your first comment, that Oxbridge, for all its elite status, really was not a paragon of intellectual equality. The issue, then however, is why they are considered so elite?

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              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Dorothea,

                I’d like to know a lot more about it than I do! The whole parallel structure of the women’s colleges at Oxford and Cambridge – and elsewhere: Wikipedia says “Bedford College was founded in London in 1849 as the first higher education college for women in the United Kingdom” – with (from whatever point, and for a long while only) “an ‘equivalent’ degree rather than a standard Oxford degree” – seems very strange to me. (So, in perhaps a similar way, does how recently English was an academic subject.) So well and thoroughly worked out – and also, set so apart in basic ways. Who among the ‘elite’ were encouraging, and who impeding, full academic equality, at Oxbridge and elsewhere? And how independent are which learned and scholarly women from the ‘parallel’ academic structure?

                Thinking to look up more about Elizabeth Mary Lea Wright, and how she came to collaborate with her husband Joseph Wright on Old and Middle English Grammars and also to write Rustic Speech and Folklore herself, I’ve paused in mid-comment to read a bit in her biography of him as scanned in the Internet Archive – with chapter 4 of the first volume looking fruitful – in which she mentions Glimpses of the Past by Dame Elizabeth Wordsworth, “Late Principal of Lady Margaret Hall” – also scanned in the Internet Archive… I’d better go ahead and submit this, but recommend both for what looks like vivid personal evidence.

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  2. Thank you – you’ve made me look at the Narnian books from a new point of view. As Catherine has said in her comment above – it’s very refreshing. I’ve never considered Lewis’s potrayal of girls as sexist. Actually, his female characters are very interesting. They are strong, enterprising, they love adventure (do you remember Polly’s attic?), they’re kind, and brave, and clever. And they’re very realistic too.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Dorothea says:

    ooh. I’m glad to read of some of the things you’ve found in your more feminist approach to C.S. Lewis. Nicely done!

    Like

    • Thanks Dorothea. In this case I’m thinking more about gender than just girl power or a feminist angle. I think Lewis is best when he is most playful, but he did think of some things about gender that are pretty weird to us!

      Like

      • Dorothea says:

        If I understood correctly, you were explicating, and implicitly challenging the gender divides in The Chronicles of Narnia, and challenging gender stereotypes and divides is what I would call feminism!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Catherine B. says:

          Hi Dorothea,

          I am talking to you as a Christian women who doesn’t call herself a feminist. Brenton seems to be talking about gender outside of the political realm, and through a Christian perspective. Our world today appears to have become so divided by isms that it’s heartbreaking. Does holding onto those isms help us to let go of the laws that we love, and to forgive others as we are all trying to figure out how to act in this complicated life?

          Liked by 2 people

          • Dorothea says:

            Hi Catherine. I agree with you that we should not hold onto the isms if they get in the way of upholding the laws we see as integral to our communities. But I do think that, as a Christian woman who also calls herself a feminist, it is worthwhile trying to change the stigma of feminism that seems to get in the way of Christian values. Ultimately, feminism is not about female over male, but rather the age old “love thy neighbor as thyself,” which means that I’m also looking out for the fair treatment of my male neighbors as well (they also should not be reduced in their opportunities and social acceptance based on their gender). I’m not quite sure what you mean by a Christian perspective of gender versus a political one?

            Liked by 3 people

            • Catherine B. says:

              Hi Dorothea,

              I think that what I was trying to say is that I believe that attaching values onto a worldly label with the tree letters ‘ism’ at the end can create challenges in moving beyond them, especially if they have become stigmatized. Even if that’s not the case for other women who identify themselves as ‘feminist’, and even though there are Christian feminists, there are still plenty of others who have called men ‘biased’, but who have also denied their own biases–that’s what happens in group think, and my fear is that group think can stifle spiritual growth if we’re not careful.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Dorothea says:

                ah. I see what you mean. Yes. I am a huge proponent of critically engaging with discourses and ideologies (including those surrounding my own faith), so I see what you mean. I also tend to avoid labels, but I did use one in my first comment without realizing the possible associations outside of how I’ve come to understand it, so thank you for pointing this out. I also am realizing that I may have read a bit too much into Brenton’s text, interpreting beyond the evidence he was providing with contemporary means. I think it is fair to examine C.S. Lewis’ texts more closely from this angle (that he was, without realizing it, sexist), but I would not go so far as to say he was misogynist or the opposite. I don’t know how much thought he gave to the construction of gendered/sexual being, but he was definitely interested in the spiritual/faithfullness of being, for which gender in the social realms sometimes got in the way, which is the point Brenton made quite well.

                Liked by 2 people

              • Thank you both for the civil and considerate conversation. In many ways I would call myself a feminist, and be proud of that, but I am not sure that I have earned the title. I am interested in the welfare of girls and women in particular–not because we want poor things for men and boys, but because our world has bent in a certain way for a long time. I believe that God is working us toward transformation of the cosmos that “breaks down the dividing walls” in many kinds of ways.
                The feminists that I read and look up to tend to really value the question of their own values and don’t denounce men as a category to get what they want.

                Liked by 2 people

              • Dorothea says:

                those are my kinds of feminists, too (and the kind that I try to be like). And I have to thank Catherine for her initial reply, because it set the tone of mine as well, though I am, in general, a huge proponent of respectful conversation and making conversation, as Kwame Anthony Appiah writes it in his book Cosmopolitanism. As a final note, I don’t think feminism is a title that needs to be earned. It’s not really a title… though this could lead into a whole other conversation that I hope we can have at some point.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Catherine B. says:

                Thank you so much. 🙂 It’s great to have these conversations. It truly is hard to know how tightly, or loosely we should hold onto this label especially since I keep hearing about feminists who don’t tolerate anyone who holds pieces of their beliefs, but doesn’t abide their whole belief system. They tell these people that they are ‘not feminists’. I don’t believe that I have a big enough scope of the world to understand what true equality is in the grand scheme of things, but I do believe that in many ways God moves us towards equality in a nuanced way.

                Liked by 1 person

  4. danaames says:

    I think the thing that transcends whatever is problematic with the Narnia books in this regard is that Lewis recognized and understood that the true strength of the characters (like that of Christ as you noted above, Brenton) is in their humility. Humility is not a characteristic of gender, but of a humanity that remembers Aslan.

    Dana

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think that, like the individual human that remembers Aslan, Lewis also knew that “Humility is not primarily a virtue to be acquired but rather an abasement to be endured” [Enzo Bianchi] and we cannot pick and choose where and when we will have to “pick up our cross”.

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      • danaames says:

        True – and what comes of the endurance is something greater than both the endurance and abasement. It’s knowing exactly who and what I am… humility. With gratitude, it is how we live in Christ, and sanely.

        Dana

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think I will disagree on one side of that Patrick. You are certainly right about enduring the difficulty. But I think he thought that the cross was picked up every day and that humility is something formed in us in a life of discipleship. His books show the response to the shaping of Aslan or Maleldil, some challenge or humiliation, then the strong humble response of the hero (or fallen one) changed. The goal, Lewis thought, was a kind of humility that was an integrated sense of self that comes with a disinterest in self.
        The Bianchi quotation is really quite stirring.

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        • You are 100% correct about daily picking up or cross and that humility is formed during discipleship. I have not read the Narnia series, I have watched the movies though, and I am beginning to think that perhaps I should read them, so you must forgive my ignorance of the details of how Lewis has translated his faith into them.
          These two quotes support your comments about an individual being lost if they are self-obsessed but how important it is to find or “be” one’s “self because it is only possible “in Christ”.
          “The characteristic of lost souls is ‘their rejection of everything that is not simply themselves’” [von Hügel]

          “People in flight from them ‘self’ are intrinsically violent” [Richard Rohr]

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        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Having just reread chapter 5 of the Problem of Pain in preparation for Charles Huttar’s seminar talk on Lewis’s Socratic myth there, I would recommend doing so in this context for Lewis’s imagining of unfallen human condition: how does humility in our fallen world relate to that?

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  5. Aonghus Fallon says:

    It’s interesting to note that while Lewis has female characters in his work, Tolkien largely ignores them – e.g. there are no female characters in ‘The Hobbit’ at all. I wonder which is the more questionable?

    Like

    • I think there are some that have done a comparison. But in the way I approach things, I don’t think either is questionable, exactly. But I think either can be interesting to think about for a curious mind.

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      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Interesting to think how The Hobbit got written after so much mythological/legendary material with prominent female characters, human and non-human, and in the process got taken up into that body of material – with that fact becoming evident in ‘the new Hobbit’, which eventually became The Lord of the Rings as we know it, with characters like Eowyn and Galadriel and Arwen in the foreground and Elbereth and Luthien in the background.

        Liked by 1 person

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Hmm… just got wondering if it’s clear one way or the other if those open-air Elven parties Bilbo and the Dwarves keep trying to join in Mirkwood were mixed, or all-male? (Need to reread!)

          Like

  6. Aonghus Fallon says:

    I’m not necessarily criticising Tolkien or Lewis (‘The Hobbit’ is one of my favourite books) so maybe my use of the word ‘questionable’ is questionable? I really just meant that it’s food for thought. Can a male author be categorised as sexist if he largely ignores female characters – or rather, can he be thought of as more sexist than a male author who does have female characters in his work, but whose characters are seen as reflecting stereotypical attitudes towards gender etc, etc?

    In fairness to Lewis, while I understand opinions differ in relation to the female characters in the Narnian books, Orual in ‘Till We Have Faces’ is a great female character (although how much of this is intentional on Lewis’s part or not is open to debate).

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    • I think it is okay, too, to criticize or question or struggle with texts. And I don’t know the answer to that question. I mean, he fails The Bechdel test on all his work, though Lewis would pass. Are there multiple non-male characters that talk to each other about something other than the male characters? I think that tool works better assessing where things are at in general rather than for particular books. A war book will often fail (though need not, depending on the book), and we may know nothing about the author’s strengths and weaknesses about women as people.
      Orual is fascinating. I struggle to understand exactly her transformation (the “I, too, am Pysche/Ungit” bit), but it is powerful.

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  7. Aonghus Fallon says:

    I had a big problem with the book’s ending. A story in which you encounter Pan is going to have a very different ending (and moral) from a story in which you encounter Jesus, but Lewis seemed to be implying that they were synonymous.

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  8. dalejamesnelson says:

    I don’t know if this is the place to submit this observation.

    But it’s sobering to think that, today, Lewis would not make the final cut of candidates for a university job in medieval and Renaissance literature, should he have applied. (1) He would not have a CV well-packed with things documenting what he has done to meet the “needs of students from diverse backgrounds” and to encourage their retention and degree completion. (2) His public utterances reflecting Christian and conservative convictions about mankind, the sexes, etc. would make him wholly unacceptable to search committees. Goodness, can you just imagine!!

    In fact, Lewis would not be acceptable as a visiting speaker at many universities. If he were invited, protests about the imminent event would be noisy, craven administrators would be intimidated, and Lewis would be disinvited.

    Of course, such things don’t judge Lewis and his beliefs, but the institutions and their students.

    DN

    Liked by 2 people

    • “I have never been able to understand where people got the idea that democracy was in some way opposed to tradition. It is obvious that tradition is only democracy extended through time….Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death….I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea.” [Chesterton]

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      • Hi Guys, I wanted to respond here so that (if you are signed up for notifications) they will get to you. I appreciate the thoughtful and hard-hitting criticism. It is helping me to think through my methods, considering how I could put them most simply. I might write about it, but at this stage in my work (I’m nearly done drafting my thesis and am terribly bereft of time) I just can’t. So, some inadequate responses and perhaps in a few months we could return.
        Dale, you are right that Lewis may not get hired at a university, but it is just not a game I can play as we don’t know what Lewis’ views would be today. I suspect few of the great men and women of history could work anywhere, or even be published, in the way they wrote and thought at the time. Lewis developed over the years, some thoughts maturing (like his theory that went into Experiment in Criticism), some deepening (like his growing understanding of God’s forgiveness), some changes in approach (a shift away from overt apologetics, a deepening of fiction), and he may have rethought individual small doctrines or ideas. I just don’t know what he would be like if he were born in 1925 or 1945 or 1965–even if he was as perfectly Lewisian as we can imagine.
        The most significant development is that on gender and sex, so that the way he talks about the relation of the sexes in marriage is not how he imagined it in his earlier fiction. It also changes in tone and quality from his BBC talks (Mere Christianity). I find Lewis on sex and gender puzzling, problematic, prophetic, peculiar, and able to bring up possibilities for thinking about culture, faith, and literature.
        So, Patrick, that is why approach things the way I do. I see first to know what Lewis thought, to the best of my limited abilities, and to understand that thought in a number of contexts. One in Anglicanism of that time and throughout history. One is as a kind of anti-Modernist Modernist of the period. One is as a Georgian, male-encrusted, Oxonian war vet. One is Lewis as a member of a pretty counter-cultural household. One is as a lit scholar and the way he thought about literature–and thought about thinking about literature. And so on. I critique Lewis in those contexts, but also against the standard of biblical literature and Christianity that he seeks to base himself upon.
        In this sense I am a Christian critic, and my primary theoretical lens is theological.
        But I am not merely a systemetician or a historian. I don’t read Lewis merely to know what he says. I read him because I think he provides a profound prophetic self-criticism for Christians today–one that we clearly have not heard given the state of our church and our public witness (at least in Canada, England, and the U.S.–and I would say Japan in my experience there). Once we understand the value of the critique, I think that Lewis can then help us to approach a new stance before the world. There are things to learn, there are stories to hear, but there are also places where as Christians we can offer resistance in truth-love ways (to use Paul’s term).
        I have written 850 or so posts on this site, and a number of articles. I have read every word of his I can find, often multiple times. Occasionally I offer criticism of his thought or choices based on those categories above. I have done so sparingly and with care. I have not shared what most deeply troubles me, and haven’t cherrypicked the easy things, for the most part. But I think it is okay to offer pushback, knowing that American readers in particular struggle with that.
        Beyond all those above, there is one more thing. Lewis was very attentive to the experience of the modern reader. He thought that reader should submit to the text, then bend himself or herself to understand the worldview of the author. I think we have people do that well with Lewis, and my blog does some of that–inviting readers to see Lewis in deeper and fresher ways.
        But I am also attentive to the fact that readers’ language changes. Lewis knew this too, and thought translation important–essential not just to Bible work, but to apologetics and theology. And so I address things that readers might be concerned about, like sexism, social roles, strange language, contextual clues, literary links. I want to bridge that gap.
        Finally, as a critic, I use any tool I can get my hands on. I’m not a Marxist, but they have given us language of ideology and class that is terribly helpful. I want to look at the linguistics, economics, social make-up, physics, magic, history, and religion of a fictional world, so use whatever tools I can. Gender criticism is an approach that fits with things I said, but at the very least is helpful in the last bit. After all, a man who talked about 7 genders, and husband and wives as gods and goddesses, and wrote his finest literature from the perspective of a woman ruler, there is a lot worth studying in Lewis.
        I’m sorry I can’t dialogue more. Some of my approaches are Lewisian, some are not. But I should say a final word. In a way, I wish Lewis was “better.” I wish his apologetics was a little deeper, that he developed his social thought more, and that he knew a wider range of people. When he talks about everyman, it’s not always clear he knew every man. I wish when he took someone on, like liberal Christians or teetotallers, he knew them better so his critique was more incisive and more fair. I wish he had our historical point of view to take his intriguing critique of imperialism even further. I wish his ecclesiology and pneumatology was stronger. I don’t agree with his understanding of hierarchy, priesthood, marriage relations, purgatory, and church music. But in all of these there are resources for conversation that would give us a stronger footing today–even for those who disagree. I neither want to reshape him nor condemn him, but neither do I leave him untouched in the past.

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        • dalejamesnelson says:

          Brenton, it must have troubled you to have to write, “Dale, you are right that Lewis may not get hired at a university, but it is just not a game I can play as we don’t know what Lewis’ views would be today.” T

          To think that university literature departments have come to the place that a scholar with Lewis’s command of language and literature and his superlative qualities as teacher and critic might not get hired (or even interviewed) basically because he was a conservative Christian!

          It’s hypothetical of course and there’s no need for me or someone else to get all het up about it. But we find ourselves in agreement that a scholar with Lewis’s knowledge, but not signed up and paid up as a progressive liberal, might not be able to find work in our universities; we can’t honestly say, “Pshaw! That’s ridiculous! Of -course- he would!”

          That’s why it seems to me disingenuous or at best a sign of ignorance coexisting with good will when one occasionally sees liberals say things like this: “Where -are- the conservative literary scholars? We don’t see any,” etc.

          If they are there (and they are, here and there) , they likely are keeping quiet, keeping their heads down.

          I’m retired now. One of my colleagues (tenured, Phd.D) in English remains. I don’t know if I have known a prof who cared more about students than this woman. But last time we talked about it, she expressed to me that she was about at the point where she doubted she could go on. And this is in “conservative” North Dakota.

          Dale Nelson

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          • Thanks Dale, I don’t know what conservatives are experiencing, but there are some that work on my campus. They feel embattled, but so do I and my views down spectrum well.
            I finish my PhD soon and start looking for teaching positions with not a lot of hope. But not because of my point of view, but rather because of what you wrote in today’s post about the utilitarian nature of rightish understanding of education (though it is more than the right on that one). “Liberal” education–learning freely in a free spirit–is no longer cost-effective.

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          • Steve says:

            Is it a generational or a geographical, or perhaps even a gender thing that makes me feel completely out of touch with those uses of “conservative” and “liberal”. They have become almost completely meaningless epithets, at least when used by people in North America.

            I don’t thionk Lewis can be accurately described as either “conservative” or “liberal”, though in his writings he did seem to favour liberal democracy as a political system for much the same reasons as I do. In Lewis’s ere the cheif enemy of liberalism was not conservatism but radical fascism (as protrated, inter alia in That hideous strength. In what sense was he a “conservative Christian”? What does that even mean?

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            • Probably in this sense – “I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and so good that everyone deserved a share in government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they are not true. And whenever their weakness is exposed, the people who prefer tyranny make capital out of the exposure. I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a henroost, much less a nation. Nor do most people – all people who believe advertisements, and think in catchwords and spread rumours. The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows.” [C S Lewis]

              Liked by 1 person

              • Steve says:

                Well yes, but it is because he said things like that that I regard C.S. Lewis as more of a liberal, and so it is of no help at all in seeing what it means to say that he was a “conservative Christian”. He certainly wasn’t a True Blue Tory (though I suppose in the USA nowadays that would be a “True Red Tory”).

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                For what it’s worth:

                A.G. Dickens, whom Lewis taught Political Philosophy (from Platonic Communism to Lenin’s The State and Revolution in 10 weeks), describes him as a liberal Christian in my interview with him for the Wade Oral History archive.

                George Grant, an enjoyer of the Socratic Club, has an interesting discussion of what ‘liberal’ does or might mean, in English-Speaking Justice (1974).

                Stephen Neill, admirer of Lewis’s OHEL volume, and correspondent, discusses something he characterizes as “Liberal Catholicism” (p. 273) and later (p. 401) “the old optimistic ‘liberalism'” and “‘post-Barthian liberals'” and says “there will always be need for a liberal wing in the Church” in Anglicanism (1958).

                Liked by 1 person

              • Thanks for this. Steve, I should have added that in my context (North America), conservative Christian tends to be (but is not exclusively) Protestant (we tend to say conservative Catholic, and Orthodoxy is not a huge public question, and we often specify evangelical Anglican or not), and evangelical, fundamentalist, or charismatic/Pentecostal. In theological circles, it is a movement that rejects “liberal” theology in the school of Schleiermacher, Bultmann, the public face of the Historical Jesus quest group, the Gene Robinson, movement, etc. It is a school largely rooted in historico-grammatical exegesis, a “high” view of scripture, belief in the four last things and miracles, and the emphasis on response to salvation, the centrality of the cross, and ethics. In that sense Lewis fits pretty well, though he doesn’t align well with American evangelicals.

                Like

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Just encountered someone quoting this from the speech which John Henry Newman delivered on receiving the official notification that he was to be a Cardinal (1879):

                “For thirty, forty, fifty years I have resisted to the best of my powers the spirit of liberalism in religion. Never did Holy Church need champions against it more sorely than now, when, alas! it is an error overspreading, as a snare, the whole earth … Liberalism in religion is the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion, but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion, as true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, for all are matters of opinion. Revealed religion is not a truth, but a sentiment and a taste; not an objective fact, not miraculous; and it is the right of each individual to make it say just what strikes his fancy.”

                This is pretty clearly not what either A.G. Dickens or Stephen Neill were referring to, but invites finding out more in its detail – including the reference to “thirty, forty, fifty years”, which would takes us through the 1840s, and 1830s, to the 1820s.

                Liked by 2 people

            • I think you are right that lib-con are loaded terms. Are they helpful? I am (in North America) a “conservative” on economics, but there is a conservative government in the USA today that seems to have no overlap with what I called conservative just a few years ago. I’m a “liberal” on human freedom, but we have a liberal government in Canada that believes in limiting human freedom to encase their beliefs in the world. It’s difficult to know how this is helpful any more.
              Moreover, Lewis was an open progressive on some things–he had an atypical family, was an animal rights activist, valued socialized health care, worked to subvert immigration restrictions, worked to subvert the Nazi regime, he was anti-eugenics, was an environmentalist, and wanted to open the academic life more to women colleagues–and was conservative on many things–he disliked technological development, he had essentialist views of gender, he resented limitations to personal rights by the state, he had grave doubts about progressive education, and he thought Labour pretty much botched the post-war organization. But, even those I listed were tagged differently then, so what help is it?
              Finally, how often do people just pick up people like Lewis and make them do what they want? That book by West on evolution, the Magician’s Twin, is a terribly hackjob appropriation. Lewis isn’t even important in it. American conservatives consistently pick Lewis up with levity, without considering his penetrating critiques of some of their core tenets.
              So in the end perhaps it matters not. I may misread Lewis, but I do try to let him be him, to the best I can.

              Like

        • The only motive for my pre-preemptive “push back” was to stop the burning of books (written by yourselves or your readers) before they are even written.

          “If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals, it is the modern strengthening of minor morals. Of all the marks of modernity that seem to mean a kind of decadence, there is none more menacing and dangerous than the exalting of small and secondary matters of conduct at the expense of very great and primary ones, at the expense of eternal ties and tragic human morality.” [G K Chesterton]

          “The idea that it is only in the last five years we’ve discovered what gender really is, is the height of absurdity.”[Jordan Peterson]

          And like JP I just think any ideology based on the difference between sexes (or as my wife’s father used to say – “the bleedin obvious”) is absurd, especially when you are trying to discuss, and I quote you here – “What is the heart of C.S. Lewis’ spiritual theology?”

          Like

          • I’m not sure this conversation is going to go anywhere if you think I am book-burning, or calling for it (metaphorically, or otherwise). My reading of Lewis is that at the heart of his understanding of Christian life is that we echo the cross in our lives, we imitated Christ, we give up our lives, we surrender, we crucify ourselves–or are co-crucified with Christ–so that our self may life. I think that his understanding of hierarchy is at odds with this in some ways, though in A Grief Observed he has brought that lesson into his relationship with Joy. I wish that Lewis integrated his upsidedown, self-surrendering, cruciform way of understanding Christ-life soaked through in all ways, as I wish for myself. So this is what I do. You are welcome to say what you like, but here we divide. I hold Lewis’ work, life, and theology in deepest respect–a model for me, one I hope will transform my evangelical community. So, book-burning? No, I’m out.

            Liked by 1 person

            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              Tangentially, Eric Voegelin has some interesting things to say about the problems or both censorship and lack of censorship, historically, in the volume, Nature of the Law and Related Legal Writings.

              Like

            • Hannah says:

              I also hold Lewis’ work, life, and theology in deepest respect – read this after posting a comment near the bottom of this chain (Febr 7 – 12:53 pm), but it might also fit here.

              Like

            • Allow me to use some “rhetoric” which will remain within the borders of objective, observable reality to explain what I meant by “stop the burning of books (written by yourselves or your readers) before they are even written.” David in a post below has grasped my point exactly. How many books would you have written if your future in the institutions you are working so hard to be employed in were not forcing you to self-censor (burn) before you let the idea even get off the ground? Only you know or, what is even worse “don’t know” the answer to the question.
              Hopefully this opens up the conversation again rather than shuts it down.

              Like

          • Catherine B. says:

            Patrick,

            I’m trying to understand what you mean by ‘the burning of books’. Are you worried that books will be written containing stories that show so much disapproval for the stories from the past that they are metaphorically ‘burning’ them? Because if so I don’t think that you have to worry about me, or the other people in this discussion doing that. Everyone here seems to be really open-minded.

            In the quote from G K Chesterton that you have posted the ‘strengthening of minor morals’ is mentioned, and I’m wondering if this is somehow related to my belief that society might be currently blurring the lines between social rules and moral rules. Because if so I can full-heartedly relate to much of what you are saying, and I think that I can see a link between the burning of books, and the burning of major morals if this was the gap that you were intending to bridge. On the chances that I’m not projecting my own ideas onto you it doesn’t seem like anyone here is against your concerns, so likewise, nobody here wants to burn books.

            Like

            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              If not burning, banning is a recurrent contemporary issue – for example, what’s been going on in Duluth for the past year with this as (most?) recent development:

              https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/sites/default/files/spirit%20car%20letter%20%285%29.pdf

              I take Patrick’s “to stop the burning of books (written by yourselves or your readers)” to mean any- and everyone of us might to our surprise be suddenly subject to censorship of the most ferocious sort, etc. – and, more and more circumspectly subject to self-censorship to avoid such risks.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Catherine B. says:

                Hi David,

                I think that I see what you mean. Self-correction can be a good, humble thing to do to a certain extent, but correcting ourselves, or other writers for story content that isn’t ethically wrong in order to please the world is a form of censorship that can make stories insincere if we go too far, and even strip us of our freedom to create, and to live out adventures in the real world.

                I do believe, however, that there needs to be a balance. If we never wrote stories that went against some social conventions they would get dull and lifeless over time, and I think this was the idea that Brenton was trying to convey. But also, banning conventions, or the representation of conventions under the guise of being “morally bad” is in fact…wrong. For example it’s nice to have female characters who are physically, and exceptionally strong now and then, but as a female author I am very much outspoken, and against making this representation of female characters a moral obligation that every author must follow. It’s actually deeply cruel to force authors to write “strong female characters” even if their hearts aren’t set on it–my heart used to be fine with this, but not so much any more now that this has been pushed as a “moral” obligation. Paradoxically, we are being taught that we have a moral obligation to break the morals from the past. Some people are so against everything, and anything that is conventional that they will dehumanize the conventional books and people with an ungrounded lack of mercy over every little thing they do and say. I can see both of your concerns, and I empathize with them, but I don’t see anyone here who would do that. I don’t believe that people can burn books unless they have the intention to do so out of deep-rooted hate, or lack of forgiveness towards the ideas represented within the pages.

                The banning of the books as mentioned in your link was probably done by the schoolboards out of hate for mercy. They probably just spotted parts of the stories, or words that they didn’t like among the good intentions that are represented throughout the whole thing, and deemed them as all bad. It’s a twisted form of “purification” that throws the baby out with the bathwater.

                I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s dehumanizing to criticize out of existence, but it’s also dehumanizing to leave uncriticised. This is true about us humans, and this is also true about the stories that we tell.

                Liked by 1 person

              • Your statement – “Paradoxically, we are being taught that we have a moral obligation to break the morals from the past.” sums it up perfectly, you could, however also have added – “Without bringing any proven and workable replacement morality to what is being destroyed”

                Liked by 1 person

              • Spot-on Mr Dodds. Lewis had to make some tough political decisions – “When Winston Churchill offered Clive Staples (C. S.) Lewis (1898–1963), the great Christian apologist and author of the Chronicles of Narnia, the honorary title of Commander of the British Empire, Lewis declined on the grounds that accepting would strengthen the hands of “knaves who say, and fools who believe, that my religious writings are all covert anti-Leftist propaganda.”[Letters of C. S. Lewis (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1988), 414. Churchill offered Lewis the investiture following the Conservative Party’s return to power in 1951.] Those somewhat familiar with C. S. Lewis’ writings might infer that his reluctance to involve himself in politics simply reflected his personal preference for evangelization in the private sphere. It would be a mistake, however, to infer that his religious writings were apolitical. Indeed, in his essay “Meditation on the Third Commandment” (1941), Lewis acknowledged the political dimension of evangelization: “He who converts his neighbour has performed the most practical Christian-political act of all.”[C. S. Lewis, “Meditation on the Third Commandment,” The Guardian (10 January 1941]

                Like

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Dear Catherine,

                Thanks for these detailed reflections on these matters – among which, the fine observation, “Paradoxically, we are being taught that we have a moral obligation to break the morals from the past”!

                To bring Milton in again, I recall being struck by reading his “Areopagitica; A speech of Mr. John Milton for the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, to the Parlament of England” and “Of Education” (both from 1644) together – with respect to the breadth of free access in the former and the importance of attention to what children should, and should not, be given to read at a certain age in the latter. How best do we make loving, humanizing criticism possible? Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory suddenly springs to mind, here – with the governments efforts, and little Luis’s response to his experience.

                Liked by 1 person

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                Patrick (at 11:18 a.m.),

                I love that little essay and return to it often – and keep meaning to read more Maritain on the basis of what Lewis says there.

                There is also that variation on what you quote in the last paragraph of his “Preface” to Sanhurst’s little book, How Heathen is Britain? (latter reprinted as “On the Transmission of Christianity”) – after the powerful third-last paragraph about how bad it was, as far as he could see, in 1946 – with a Christian minority of teachers “isolated in a hostile environment” and the expectation that “It is unlikely that in the next forty years England will have a government which would encourage or even tolerate any radically Christian elements in its State system of education”, and his quotation of Rousseau as context, who wrote “I know of nothing more opposed to the social spirit” than Christianity. (Arend Smilde has a good little article about that book and author, here:

                http://lewisiana.nl/sandhurst/index.htm )

                Like

              • “God may reduce you
                on Judgment Day
                to tears of shame,
                reciting by heart
                the poems you would
                have written, had
                your life been good.” [W H Auden]

                Liked by 1 person

              • It seems the “right thinking” folks on social media have targeted yet another YA author. Kosoko Jackson has chosen to withdraw his novel after facing “backlash for centering a story about the Kosovo War around two non-Muslim Americans.”

                Like

            • Catherine I have answered Brenton in a post above, David, in a post below also grasps what I meant by the phrase. Your statement “society might be currently blurring the lines between social rules and moral rules” is exactly what causes this inversion of priorities to the detriment of the poor and helpless. Example in case, when those in power convince those they rule that it is more important to put a little cross on a voting slip, that supports and maintains their power than to have sufficient food to eat.

              Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Side note: Lewis seems to take up that Chestertonian perception in a big way in The Abolition of Man!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Catherine B. says:

      Imagine if CS Lewis, and Jordan Peterson could meet in person today… I can imagine them empathising about todays problems, and also taking part in some pretty complex debates, and discussions about the things that they agree, and disagree on. They would definitely agree on the existence of objective reality, but CS Lewis would definitely reject Jordan Peterson’s claims that the Bible is a book of symbols rather than objective truth. This would be interesting. I’d be curious to see how a conversation between these two would actually turn out.

      Like

      • It would be an interesting conversation, but I would have to read up on Peterson before I poured the wine.

        Liked by 1 person

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        I wonder how far one could do justice to their thought by selecting and interweaving selected quotations into an imaginary debate or discussion, rather as Humphrey Carpenter does in his imagining a meeting in The Inklings?

        Like

      • Steve says:

        I’ve been hearing quite a lot about Jordan Peterson lately, and wondered if his stuff was worth reading. Someone pointed me to this review of one of his books, which issues the warning: “Before they get carried away, the Christians now tuning into Jordan Peterson need to realize that this man is not the next C.S. Lewis. On the contrary, Jordan Peterson is the man C.S. Lewis warned them about.”

        See Book Review: 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson.

        Like

        • I don’t know if you are correct about Peterson being the the man Lewis warned us about but I do know that Peterson goes further than anyone else I know, clergy, philosopher or psychologist, in answering Lewis question –
          The Christian is called, not to individualism but to membership in the mystical Body. A consideration of the differences between the secular collective and the mystical Body is therefore the first step to understanding how Christianity without being individualistic can yet counteract collectivism.”[C S Lewis]

          “The sovereignty of the individual is sacred, and … that the fundamental linkage between the pathology of the state and the psychology of the individual is the individual’s propensity to self-deceive him or herself and adopt an in-authentic mode of being and action.” [Jordan Peterson]

          If you have a better proposition I am very keen to hear it.

          Like

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          I haven’t read that book yet, or watched very much of Jordan Peterson, but he seems like someone Lewis would engage with interestingly, if they were around together. What would Lewis say about Peterson and the ‘Tao’ (as he uses that term in The Abolition of Man), for example? “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today” sounds a lot like George MacDonald, to me. And “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping” sounds like Lewis – or, Lewis-compatible (as when he discusses ‘loving’ as ‘willing the good of someone’). “Once having understood Hell, researched it, so to speak—particularly your own individual Hell—you could decide against going there or creating that” sounds a lot like both Williams’s Descent into Hell and Lewis’s The Great Divorce – and indeed more than a little like 1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV), “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” Would Charlie Clark think St. Paul too close to “the expression of Pride [which] is Pelagianism”, here? Jordan Peterson is admittedly not Christian (or Jewish), but it’s not clear to me he’s dogmatically closed (e.g., like the sort of classic ‘Agnostic’ who asserts he knows we can’t know).

          Like

          • Peterson definitely agrees with Lewis on certain things – “I think the idea that the most godly thing you can do is to accept the reality of your crucifixion [taking up your cross] is true! I think that’s true! It’s never been presented better than that. I think that Western civilization’s emphasis on the sovereignty of the individual [in the image of God] … is right. So to the degree that our culture – and what is right and useful about it – maintains itself and moves forward, it’s going to have to reunite itself to its symbolic foundation, with its underlying story. I don’t see another alternative. Do I think that will be a Christian revival, so to speak, a renaissance? Yeah I do.” [Jordan Peterson]
            But, and this is the enigma that Peterson is, he continues to avoid “boxing and labeling” by “any identity politics or any identity religion” so most of his followers are watching expectantly to see where his journey takes him

            Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      George MacDonald, ‘worked out’ of his formal ministry, made a living in good part by travelling about lecturing (and guest-preaching – though I’m not sure off the top of my head where that fits in, in the ‘making a living’ part). Jordan Peterson has not yet been ‘worked out’ of his academic position, but also does a lot of (as I understand) remunerative public lecturing. Might an academically unemployable Lewis have ended up doing much the same in our day (or even in his own – managing to combine writing and public lecturing)?

      Like

      • dalejamesnelson says:

        Your speculation, David, is eliciting from me an irresponsible fantasy — C. S. Lewis as Motivational Speaker.

        “C. S. Lewis knows about grief. His mother lost her battle with cancer when he was a boy — and he lost his faith. His best friend was vaporized by a German bomb in World War I and he took on the burden of caring for the friend’s mother, a mean old lady who eventually lost her mind. He fell in love late in life only to lose his love to the same disease that killed his mother. Now C. S. Lewis reveals how he came through all this, and how you can too, with the secrets of faith and Joy despite suffering! A freewill offering will be taken after his talk, Wednesday night at the Alerus Center.”

        Yeah, maybe something like that could happen but I was thinking of Lewis as a scholar. There are independent scholars — and they are real scholars, like John Rateliff and Douglas Anderson — closely identified with Tolkien studies, for example. but for a scholar of medieval and Renaissance literature — I doubt this would work.

        Dale Nelson

        Like

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          Hmm… if you had the background and then made enough from your other writing and public lecturing – and got access to the relevant libraries! – even that might be possible.

          Like

        • Did the BBC not pay him then?

          Like

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            I suppose they did – but can’t remember in detail what I may have read about it. That’s a good question in general though about all the different sorts of talks he gave – did he usually get fees, transportation expenses, bed and board for long-distances?

            Like

            • You are absolutely correct when you say “Of course, such things don’t judge Lewis and his beliefs, but the institutions and their students.” … which logically implies that …”If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.” [C S Lewis] … however, these days … “Do we know the difference between what nature has meant for nourishment and – what nature has meant for garbage?” [C S Lewis]

              Like

          • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

            Another question is, would he be on the BBC (or other UK broadcasters), nowadays, if he still thought as he did then (1940s-60s), and, if so, in what capacities?

            Like

            • He would definitely not be allowed on the BBC today, and what is really sad is that everything he and Tolkien stood for would today be considered not fit for public consumption in Britain simply because the moral high-ground has been hi-jacked by “collectivism”.

              Like

              • dalejamesnelson says:

                According to “Racial Equity and the Production of Knowledge,”

                —How do we perform—and validate, and support—the reparative epistemic justice that the discipline so sorely needs? It is here that I will insist on a modification to the discourse of inclusion. For this reparative epistemic justice to take flight, holders of privilege will need to surrender their privilege. In practical terms, this means that (in an economy of academic prestige defined and governed by scarcity) white men will have to surrender the privilege they have of seeing their words printed and disseminated; they will have to take a backseat so that people of color — and women and gender-nonconforming scholars of color — benefit from the privilege of seeing their words on the page. Again, however, I emphasize that this is an economy of scarcity that at the level of journal publication will remain zero-sum (until and unless this system of publication is dismantled): every person of color who is to be published will take the place of a white man whose words could have or had already appeared in the pages of that journal. And that would be a future worth striving for.—

                Author:D. Padilla Peralta
                https://www.dropbox.com/s/0gfxoljbi9nsr8r/Padilla%20Peralta%20SCS%202019%20Future%20of%20Classics%20Equity%20and%20the%20Production%20of%20Knowledge%20ed%20w%20tables.pdf?dl=0

                He’s a Classics scholar. This isn’t satire, not a hoax.

                Like

              • Mr D Padilla Peralta was asked by Dostoevsky’ why he felt qualified to provide the solution to our “equity” issue, this was his answer – “Dedicating my energies to the study of the social organisation which is in the future to replace the present condition of things, I’ve come to the conviction that all makers of social systems from ancient times up to the present year, 187-, have been dreamers, tellers of fairy-tales, fools who contradicted themselves, who understood nothing of natural science and the strange animal called man. Plato, Rousseau, Fourier, columns of aluminium, are only fit for sparrows and not for human society. But, now that we are all at last preparing to act, a new form of social organisation is essential. In order to avoid further uncertainty, I propose my own system of world-organisation. Here it is.” He tapped the notebook. “I wanted to expound my views to the meeting in the most concise form possible, but I see that I should need to add a great many verbal explanations, and so the whole exposition would occupy at least ten evenings, one for each of my chapters.” (There was the sound of laughter.) “I must add, besides, that my system is not yet complete.” (Laughter again.) “I am perplexed by my own data and my conclusion is a direct contradiction of the original idea with which I start. Starting from unlimited freedom, I arrive at unlimited despotism. I will add, however, that there can be no solution of the social problem but mine.” Dostoevsky

                Like

              • dalejamesnelson says:

                Bravo, Patrick!

                Dostoevsky’s captivating, funny, weird novel Demons (aka The Possessed, The Devils) really deserves that oft-used epithet “prophetic novel.” Sexual aberration, amoralism, passionate factionalism, sensation-seeking, desecration (the mouse and the icon being like something you would see in a London gallery today), and, above all, “strong delusion” (2 Thessalonians 2:11, debet qui legit intellegat) — Dostoevsky seems to have intuited much of what was coming in the next century and in our own. There’s even a hint of the Islamic idea of the “hidden Mahdi,” and who in 1870 could have suspected that the president of an Iranian state would make him international news?

                Of course, Dostoevsky’s radicals tended to be impoverished students and dropouts, while today (cough)….

                I used to love teaching Demons, writing instructional materials on it, etc. I won’t say it is Dostoevsky’s greatest novel, but it’s my favorite of the ones I’ve read, though I cherish the Russian Monk book of The Brothers Karamazov.

                DN

                https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=5438641

                Like

              • Dale, that’s pretty goofy. I could add some more of true silliness–the kind that would seem to betray learning as an institution or as an exploration.
                But is this the whole thing? Can we capture the school of theory by the stupidest bits? Is that how you would want a school of thought represented?
                I can only speak for myself. I am an evangelical Christian and I have never, in 25 years of paying attention I have never, ever heard my spirituality represented well in media, and very rarely in film or literature. It is now so far beyond the possibility of accidental that I find myself wanting to join a conspiracy theory cult. So I am perhaps a wee bit more sensitive to looking for the best in a movement, and criticizing that. Evangelical Christianity is strong enough, I think, to destroy its best people and ideas rather than cherrypick the weakest (which are often more fundamentalists anyway).
                So … that’s where I’m at. I hope that’s okay to push back a bit.

                Like

              • dalejamesnelson says:

                Brenton at 8:33 pm on 30 Jan.:

                “Dale”?

                : )

                Like

              • Apologies, this was supposed to be an answer to your post and I answered David,s post below with it, so you can delete that post if you like. I don’t know how far Wilfred Laurier in Canada and Evergreen in the US are from Pince Edward Island but if you have some time to spare one day go to YouTube and do a search for Lyndsey Shepherd(TA)/Wilfred Laurier and Brett Weinstein(exLecturer)/Evergreen, although it was the “well-placed” people in Canada it was the students at Evergreen.
                The stories there makes the Dostoevsky quote look like a transcript.

                Like

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                It’s worth asking how socially effective are those “stupidest bits”? For example, I’ve recently read the Afterword by Boris Strugatsky in the English translation of his and his brother Arkady’s novel, The Doomed City, about how they wrote books expecting that they would never be permitted to be published in the Soviet Union. How many ‘well-placed’ people are needed to shut things down, exclude the ‘irredeemable’ or whomever, and so on?

                Like

              • I don’t know how far Wilfred Laurier in Canada and Evergreen in the US are from Pince Edward Island but if you have some time to spare one day go to YouTube and do a search for Lyndsey Shepherd(TA)/Wilfred Laurier and Brett Weinstein(exLecturer)/Evergreen, although it was the “well-placed” people in Canada it was the students at Evergreen.
                The stories there makes the Dostoevsky quote look like a transcript.

                Like

              • Hi Patrick, we are pretty close to Wilfred Laurier here (about a 20-hour drive, which is Canada close). We know the Lyndsey Shepherd case pretty well. Intriguingly, it was our left-wing national paper that released the story and played the whole tape. And my local university campus is part of a network of 100 public universities in Canada, and our faculty associations (unions) which are pretty liberal condemned the university’s restriction of academic freedom of Shepherd as student and teacher. There is some hope in the nonsense, though Canada is admittedly less embattled that the US (and even the UK).

                Like

              • Very encouraging! I should’ve guessed you would investigate quite thoroughly the environment you are working so hard to be employed in. I think all institutions of learning could assist and help people come to the place where they are able to base their beliefs on KNOWLEDGE, but they are also all now threatened by “SKEPTICISM”. However, I also believe that “SKEPTICISM” is good because it initiates and stimulates inquiry, and it is necessary for undermining illegitimate claims to authority.

                Liked by 1 person

  9. dalejamesnelson says:

    Patrick Wagner commented and asked:

    —-After all our analysis of authors/works and how they play out in ideological/political/social conversations, what do the Feminists, the Hegelians, the Marxists, and modern philosophy bring to the table to offer as a replacement for “the existing reality” what do they propose that is new in “human nature” or different to what the Romans, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth (who proved to be no better or worse than their male predecessors) brought to the table?

    —-What makes them think they will succeed where countless empires, cultures, societies, “geists” and individuals have tried and failed to create an “alternative reality” and ended up as cruel brutes? After all is said and done we have to live with the results or our actions and we are now living on the back of the only civilization that has initiated and permitted the real conditions to exist which allow a Lewis or a Germaine Greer to come up with what they have.

    —-Reversing the sexes or the sexual organs in the following quotes alters nothing – “When mortal men try to live without God they infallibly succumb to megalomania or erotomania or both. The raised fist or the raised phallus; eg. Nietzsche or D.H.Lawrence.” [Malcom Muggeridge] … and “Here is a simple but profound rule. If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.” [Francis Schaeffer]—

    There’s much one could respond to here, but in this reply I’ll just say that it’s characteristic of the left, certainly including people who have a sophisticated understanding of rhetoric and should know that they are unfair, to associate their opponents with the worst that can be ascribed to them, while, on the other hand, insisting on being judged themselves by their ideals and the wonderful world they promise. It is an integral part of feminism, Marxism, etc. to rehearse endlessly the crimes and failings of Western man; you see this every Columbus Day, you see it when the American Library Association once again holds forth on “Banned” [sic] Books Week (or is it Month now?), when every pop entertainer signals his or her wokeness about gender, and so on; always The Struggle Must Go On. This is ingrained in their “critical lenses” for the teaching of literature; every reading of a book is a fresh injection of their notions. But, on the other hand, the enormities associated with feminism, Marxism are written off, or ignored, or even celebrated, e.g. the millions of infant deaths due to “reproductive rights.” Instead they project the notion that so righteous is their cause that anyone who disagrees is either ignorant or evil … although, before they had got their present, and increasing, grasp of public institutions, they pleaded for tolerance for divergent views.

    To take Schaeffer’s remark: he’s on to something. Find out about your local univertsity’s College of Education. Likely enough it is pledged to social constructionism: there are no real absolutes, there are no true essences in creation reflecting the immanence of the Logos, etc.

    Dale Nelson

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Side note: Eric Voegelin, in The New Science of Politics (1952), is very interesting in his commendation of Richard Hooker as an analyst of that “characteristic” you sketch.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hannah says:

      Re “Here is a simple but profound rule. If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute.” [Francis Schaeffer]—” adding another l’Abri quote: “Seeing everything as relative, makes that view become absolute”

      Liked by 1 person

  10. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I just rewatched The Song of Bernadette (1943) and those parts of Lucy seeing Aslan when no-one else has, in Prince Caspian, came to mind – before I finally got round to reading this post. (I should reread Prince Caspian to get a sharper sense of similarities and differences!)

    Like

  11. Steve Hayes says:

    Very interesting. One point where I disagree with you quite strongly, however, is on the point that Susan’s preoccupation with lipstick and invitations is a “tiresome trope”. The fact that so many commentators on that entirely miss the point shows that it perhaps more needed than ever. see here Milton, Lewis, Pullman, and pop culture.

    Like

    • I’m not sure it was tiresome when Lewis used. And I have a different reading of the Susan passage than people who are angry at Lewis for this one. But among tiresome tropes I place the hypocritical clergyman, the power-hungry politician, the greasy salesman, the magical negro, the dumb father. I have never met a magical African descended person, but I am sure that these people exist in general in reality. But in writing, in film, people uses these characters because they are lazy writers, wanting to use a stock character as a shortcut to emotional connection. I think Lewis is making a slightly different connection here, but the “lipstick and nylons” girl of the 40s and 50s is pretty well-used in the decades to follow, and how often do people use fashion-sensitivity to equate dimness or dullness of various kinds. Sure, that gets turned around in the Legally Blond type films, but it doesn’t make it any less tiresome to read.

      Like

      • Steve says:

        I don’t think obsession with fashion and popularity and consumerism has decreased since those days, so I don’t find it tiresome. But one other point struck me about it in our day, and how it relates to boys and girls. In the instances I noted in my blog post Lewis was criticised for saying that Susan was interested in boys, though Lewis didn’t say that at all.

        And when it comes to fashion, girls don’t dress to attract boys, they dress to impress other girls. If girls wear something unfashionable, it is other girls, not boys, who tease them about it. And I recently read an article about a boy who committed suicide because his father bought him new shoes of the “wrong” brand, and he would go to school wearing old worn-out shoes of the “right” brand rather than new ones of the wrong brand because it was other boys, rather than girls, who teased him about it.

        Like

        • Thanks for the dialogue, Steve. My Susan complaint is twofold: she falls to a trope, and it is one that has done damage over time (though I doubt it did then). So I am combining but not conflating two realities: what Lewis did and how readers read.
          In my context this is tiresome because it is tagged to girls growing up, and not boys. Then it moves into business settings where women are judged for dress and looks in a way men aren’t. And so on.
          I don’t think it is about fashion or lipstick (or boys–you are right about what Lewis didn’t say that is read here). It isn’t about Lewis doing something right or wrong morally. It is about a shortcut that Lewis took in what is inelegant character development as a whole that is swept up with all kinds of sexist responses to how girls and women are pictured. That’s why girls and women sometimes feel hurt by Lewis in reading it. When you look at the energy of Lewis’ character development, does Susan’s strike you as rich and full and consistent? If so, great. But I find it weak, faltered, unclear, so unlike Orual or Jane or Mark or Jill or Eustace. Susan falls to a trope instead of remaining a person. This would be true if she was one of another tiresome trope like all women love shoes are all boys like to wrassle or all men in suits are either evil or government secret police or all clergy are money-hungry or perverts or all days are useless or whatever.
          I think, but it is only a guess, that future generations of girls won’t read the Susan thing and have to face the same connection in culture, but will still be upset about Susan’s authorial excise from Narnia.

          Like

          • Steve says:

            OK, it’s a trope. I’m not sure what’s wrong with that. I see it as the same trope as the one that appears in the parable of the sower — the seed that fell among thorns.

            Like

            • Oh, I’m not against tropes! But to use what is already an active image at the time of writing is an interesting choice. The movement to cliche is quick.
              In Lewis’ case, it’s the combination of a bad character move + the reader’s experience.

              Like

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                It’s (in my experience) a breath-takingly shocking development, and only sketched pretty briefly, but it’s a shock of a kind of apostasy, and apostasy is real, and shocking and bewildering, though (compare Lewis, or Anakin in Star Wars) not necessarily permanent.

                Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      To take up my comment of a year ago on your follow-up post of 19 September 2016, the Susan at that point reminds me of the Lewis at the point of Surprised by Joy treated in the chapter, “I Broaden My Mind”. She, like he, opts for becoming “dressy”, “a new element had entered [her] life: Vulgarity”, though up till then she “had not been flashy.” Maybe she, like he, has a Pogo: “Here was sophistication, glossy all over, and (dared one believe it?), ready to impart sophistication to us.” Or, maybe glossy magazines like the post-war precursors of Girl’s Life were enough. That is an important point of pseudo-‘maturity’ – and, as you suggest, perhaps now more than ever – but, as with Lewis, it also need not be the end of the story.

      Now, I wonder about the interrelations of writing that chapter of Surprised by Joy and The Last Battle. Do we know if he was, or might well have been, working on both at the same time? (Paul Ford puts writing The Last Battle between autumn 1952 and spring 1953, while Surprised by Joy was published in 1955 – but Warnie mentions his working on “the early chapters” on 25 March 1948: was there a rewrite coinciding with vulgarly “dressy” Susan?)

      A curious thing, pointed out to me years ago by an Inklings-loving friend, is the double maturation of the Pevensies – and notably Susan – first in Narnia, when one thinks of the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and of the whole action of The Horse and His Boy slotted in before that last chapter, and then all over again in our world – with the successes in Narnia no guarantee of like-paced success back here.

      Liked by 1 person

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Branching off to your Milton point, do let me encourage you to try reading Paradise Lost – and Paradise Regained (and lots of Milton, for that matter) – perhaps handily together with Lewis’s Preface to Paradise Lost – and also the relevant chapters of Williams’s The English Poetic Mind (1932) and Reason and Beauty in the Poetic Mind (1933: chapter VIII) scans of both of which are available in the Internet Archive. I can’t remember if Lewis takes up the use of Isaiah 14, but he does do a lot of interesting comparing of Milton to the broader Christian background (especially, as I recall, St. Augustine) of which I think that must be a part rather than a Miltonic innovation (however that strikes you).

      That reference from Perelandra about Ransom’s thoughts amidst his experience is a fascinating one with respect to “a sombre and tragic Satan out of Paradise Lost”, given the variety and subtlety of Lewis’s discussion in A Preface to Paradise Lost about Milton’s depiction of Satan. (At what point, I wonder, did Ransom translate The Screwtape Letters – in that conception of the Ransom Cycle?)

      Milton’s poetry and prose are also interesting to consider in a discussion of ‘Christian’ and ‘liberal’. This sonnet (as transcribed in the Beeching edition of his Poetical Works at Project Gutenberg) springs to mind:

      I did but prompt the age to quit their cloggs
      By the known rules of antient libertie,
      When strait a barbarous noise environs me
      Of Owles and Cuckoes, Asses, Apes and Doggs.
      As when those Hinds that were transform’d to Froggs
      Raild at Latona’s twin-born progenie
      Which after held the Sun and Moon in fee.
      But this is got by casting Pearl to Hoggs;
      That bawle for freedom in their senceless mood,
      And still revolt when truth would set them free. 10
      Licence they mean when they cry libertie;
      For who loves that, must first be wise and good;
      But from that mark how far they roave we see
      For all this wast of wealth, and loss of blood.

      Liked by 2 people

      • dalejamesnelson says:

        “Licence they mean when they cry libertie” — boy, isn’t that the truth.

        1 Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

        2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,

        3 Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

        4 He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I, not e’en a princeling, do rage nonetheless.
          And I read “Paradise Regained” as “Paradise Rewind,” and was looking for a new piece.

          Like

          • Hannah says:

            Lewis also promoted reading Milton, in line with “Abolition of Man”:
            “Until quite modern times …. the universe was believed to be ….. objects meriting our approval or disapproval, … with endorsement of underlying moral values …(Tao).
            Older poetry, eg Milton’s, by insisting on Stock themes/responses, eg love is sweet …. instructed by delighting …
            The old territory, in which alone man can live, has been left unguarded …. with moderns, pressing forward to conquer new territories of consciousness ….. with too much faith in …. raw experience” (passages from pp 101-103 “CS Lewis’s Poetry – Charles Huttar”, in “Word and Story in CS Lews” – hopefully my rendering is ok)

            Liked by 1 person

            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              Nice! I should get rereading that!

              Like

            • Thanks Hannah, I’d also recommend that whole Word & Story collection.

              Like

              • Hannah says:

                A lot of it is indeed great! But I couldn’t recommend all of it, as in some chapters I find it hard to sift if/how the views and understanding of those writers colour what Lewis actually wrote, believed and stood for, eg on any influence of ‘Plato’ on his thinking.
                And I really disagree with the portrayal of Lewis’s views on originality in an article on CS Lewis’s personae by Stephen Medcalf (p120-122, if understood correctly).
                The modern emphasis on originality can be such a deadening burden on artists’ creativity, and at art college I have seen the results of it being even a main criteria – anything then goes, if only no one else has thought of it.
                With Lewis I much prefer the ages when there was no division between ‘high arts’ and crafts (that division resulting eg in jewels only being considered ‘art’ when they cannot be worn) and when it was accustomed practice for eg Shakespeare and Bach to start with ideas/work of someone else; and also the ages of “the medieval habit of scarcely valuing the contributions of individual artists or authors to the continuing on work or story”, working for God’s glory instead of my own.

                Like

              • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

                I remember finding that paper very interesting, also when I first heard a version of it read to the Lewis Society (his footnote reference to “Pusey House” on p. 109), but I’d have to reread carefully to see what I agree with, disagree with, or am not sure what I think about – he was certainly always someone willing to discuss and open to persuasion (and would have been one of my dissertation examiners if I had been more efficient or he had lived longer) – though now we have to take both sides in any imagined discussion – but he always seems to me to give lots of challenging food for thought, whatever conclusions one reaches after reading him.

                Like

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Looking up Milton at Project Gutenberg (PG) just led me to a historical novelist I had forgotten I had ever heard of – though I did hear of her because Lewis ordered one of her books in August 1918 – Anne Manning. PG includes a transcription of the Everyman’s Library reprint of two of her works together (EL 324), with an introduction by Katharine Tynan: Mary Powell & Deborah’s Diary. The full title of the former is The Maiden and Married Life of Mary Powell, afterwards Mistress Milton, also written as a diary, while the Deborah of the later book is the daughter whom she died giving birth to. What Lewis ordered was her book The Household of Sir Thomas More published together with Roper’s Life in The Temple Classics series – which I presume also lies behind the Everyman’s Library volume (EL 19) with the same content (scanned in the Internet Archive). Tynan (both poet and novelist herself) strikingly says, “Her studies of great men, in which her imagination fills in the hiatus which history has left, are not only literature in themselves, but they are a service to literature: it is quite conceivable that the ordinary reader with no very keen flair for poetry will realise John Milton and appraise him more highly, having read Mary Powell and its sequel, Deborah’s Diary, than having read Paradise Lost.” Looking her up in the Wikipedia led not only to links to her many works transcribed in PG and/or scanned in the Internet Archive, but to a less prolific but equally appealing sounding contemporary historical novelist, Hannah Mary Rathbone, author of So much of the Diary of Lady Willoughby, as relates to her Domestic History, and to the Eventful Period of the Reign of Charles the First and its sequel, Some further Portions of the Diary of Lady Willoughby which do relate to her Domestic History and to the Events of the latter Years of the Reign of King Charles the First, the Protectorate, and the Revolution.

        Like

        • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

          A sort of addendum: It is thanks to Walter Hooper’s annotation of the letter to Arthur Greeves he dates “[7 August 1918]” in Collected Letters, Volume I (2000), p. 393, that I know about the Manning-Roper volume. Lewis says “I am getting the Life of Thomas More in the Temple Classics.” I assume that means ‘purchasing’ – or even ‘awaiting the arrival of’. I got there by checking the index for Ann Manning.

          I’ve never yet read right through Vol. I, but assumed I must have read the same annotation in They Stand Together (1979) – which we have here in the “First Collier Books Edition 1986”. Just double-checking only now, I see Walter had not supplied that info, there, yet (p. 228)! (What a lot he has done – and gone on doing – for Lewis scholarship!)

          Whether anyone knows where the Temple Classics volume is, now, assuming Lewis did own it, I don’t know. Manning does not come up by my search here, and the edition of Roper that does may be another:

          https://www.wheaton.edu/media/wade-center/files/collections/author-library-listings/Lewis_Library_20181114.pdf

          Rereading that letter yet again, I wonder if there is not also some interesting matter on the ‘Susan question’, too! Lewis notes he has borrowed MacDonald’s Princess and the Goblin from Maureen Moore (then less than a fortnight away from her twelfth birthday) and that she “has a well stocked library of fairy tales which form her continual reading – an excellent taste at her age, I think, which will lead her in later life to romance and poetry and not to the twaddling novels that make up the diet of most educated women apparently. I am getting the Life of Thomas More in the Temple Classics.” Is there an implication there that ‘I am also getting Ann Manning’s far-from-twaddling historical novel, too’? Tantalizing questions – did he enjoy The Household of Sir Thomas More? Did he pass it on to Maureen – or even read it aloud in ‘household circle’? And, where did he get this impression of “the diet of most educated women” – and what would he give as examples of such “twaddling novels”? (Might we also see An Experiment in Criticism already glinting in the far distance, here? – re. what – and how – one reads?)

          Dragged back to Maureen’s age (according to Paul Ford’s calculations) from her late 20s in Narnia, Susan has nine years till The Last Battle to be assailed by the superficializing contemporary influences that surround her. (By the way, I find Ford’s discussion of Susan and how Lewis may be developing her character throughout the series, in Companion to Narnia (1980), well worth (re)reading!)

          Like

      • Love it David, I think this sonnet echoes the chore of what JP is trying to say to an audience which comes from everywhere – unless the “sovereignty of the individual” – a concept only real in the Kingdom, is instituted in those outside of the Kingdom, it will not work out well for them. Not any/every collective, only the God/Christ/Bride – BODY. Those who are not disciples of Christ (not seeking first the Kingdom) are citizens of another collective and as such remain divided or without integrity (integration of spirit, mind and body) and who “seek to maximize their own power/freedom without constraint” are unable to “know what to desire”.

        Like

  12. Aonghus Fallon says:

    Re Susan. I’ve never had a problem with the Susan storyline. I think Lewis probably felt (with some justification) that having all four get into heaven was a bit pat. Susan ended up being the only viable candidate for exclusion, not because of suitability, but because (a) Peter is group leader, (b) Edmund’s epiphany rules him out, while (c) Lucy is the innocent and most accepting of the four when it comes to the miraculous.

    ‘Lipstick and nylon’ is just an indicator (ie, of Susan’s superficial value system) rather than specifically sexist. If – for example – it had been Peter, Lewis could just as easily have said – ‘He’s interested in nothing now-a-days except girls and motorcars’.

    Like

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Thanks for this analysis!

      It gets me thinking more – and realizing I need to reread – about how much (or little) Lewis tells us about the memories of their Narnian experiences the Pevensies have when back in our world (with no earth-time having passed, in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) – and wanting to compare what Williams does (avoiding spoilers) in Descent into Hell with memory of Doppelgänger experience, and in All Hallows’ Eve with memory and experience of every day life when ‘beyond’ or ‘outside’ it in some sense.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t thought of that first bit. I have thought that Lewis would have thought that 7 princes would have been synchronistic at the end.

      Like

      • To me what’s so jarring about Susan’s end is not that she is caught up in “nylons and lipstick” but that she has all but forgotten Narnia. A teenager forgetting her childhood faith because of her fashion interest is a somewhat tiresome trope but not an unreasonable one. Susan Pevensie forgetting that she once actually was a Queen of Narnia because of her fashion interest, now that is ridiculous. For it to make sense within the story either “nylons and lipstick” are enough to rob someone of all their memories and thinking abilities, or Narnia was always a make-believe land and Susan is actually a voice of reason.

        Like

        • dalejamesnelson says:

          To I Read That in a Book:

          I probably would have agreed with you at some time, if you’re saying it stretches credibility to believe that Susan could have had her Narnian experiences but eventually lost a sense of their reality. But I think that’s actually — from a literary point of view — a brilliant masterstroke. The implication is that, even with such an experience in her girlhood (and Susan is sometimes depicted as a bit too old as compared to the books), the power of the immediate present, the tide of the senses, the pressure of worldly considerations, and so on could be just too much.

          And I think that’s true. At the time of the Incarnation, many people saw miraculous things, e.g. the feedings of the multitudes, etc. But isn’t it likely that, eventually, many of these same people eventually settled into a rut, taking their sense of daily reality from those around them and so on?

          I think the artistic and the thematic effectiveness of Narnia would have lost something if Lewis had made it clear that all of the children stayed true throughout their lives to the Narnian experience.

          Coventry Patmore, in Religio Poetæ: “Let not my heart forget the things my eyes have seen.”

          “Let us not forget in the darkness what we have known in the light” — Arthur Machen, I think.
          DN

          Like

          • I would perhaps have bought that if she had only not had time for Narnia any more, but according to Eustace she is actively denying it’s existence. Surely we deserve to see more of her motivations than Jill’s suggestion of “nylons and lipstick” before we are to believe that?

            If he wanted to exclude her, why not give her a motivation that makes sense to a child reader? Perhaps she couldn’t handle the knowledge that she couldn’t return or something like that? As an adult reader I can of course see parallels to people loosing their faith as they grow-up etc, but a child (who are after all the primary audience) will probably go for the straight forward interpretation, that Susan forgot about Narnia when she started to care about lipstick. And that I believe to be deeply unfair to her character.

            Like

            • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

              Having just caught up with these comments, Dale’s raises om my mind a sort of tangent, by contrast – Eliot’s imagination in ‘Journey of the Magi’ about how lastingly, weightily one of them has retained his experience. (And, perhaps Eliot’s ‘Animula’ provides for a more direct experience to compare with Susan’s.)

              Not pausing to reread later relevant posts and comments, memories of attention by others to Prince Caspian among the Chronicles makes me want to reread it, to see how much it may prepare the young reader for the later Susan.

              Liked by 2 people

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  19. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Hard to believe it’s already been half-a-year since this post went up – it feels much more recent! Roger Pearce’s attention a couple days ago to Frederick Adam Wright (1869-1946) as translator of St. Jerome while at Birkbeck College, University of London, left me wondering who may be included among his students, and what interconnections there may have been with Inklings and their contemporaries and colleagues, and generally fired up for learning more about him. Turning to the Internet Archive led me to scans of various works, including Feminism in Greek Literature from Homer to Aristotle (1923) – ! (of which I have so far only read the interesting introduction):

    https://archive.org/details/feminismingreekl00wriguoft/page/n5

    A quick Wikipedia check of the history of Birkbeck tells me “In 1921, the college’s first female professor, Dame Helen Gwynne-Vaughan, began teaching botany” – two years before that book of his appeared. (Alas, no more about F.A. Wright, though).

    Liked by 1 person

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