C.S. Lewis, Gender, and The Four Loves: An Open Class

C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves is a book that is building in popularity nearly 60 years after it was originally published. My original review of the book 8 years ago remains one of the top posts on this blog, and I have returned to the ideas again and again. Though there are some intriguing flaws in the book, I still think Lewis says some important and powerful things about friendship, and I think his main thesis is right, that agape love–divine, unconditional love–fills out, lifts up, and perfects all other kinds of natural love.

And … “gender” is a topic that remains really important for C.S. Lewis readers. Yesterday was the biggest day ever for visitors on A Pilgrim in Narnia, with 2,725 hits. September 2019 was the second busiest month ever, and this week will likely be the most active week in blog history. While a lot of this has to do with popularity by older blog posts on Screwtape and The Great Divorce and a well-received blog post last week on maps, most of the hits that didn’t come from curiosity about the blog’s main page came from two recent posts on Lewis & Gender. The first is Kat Coffin’s guest post “How do you Solve a Problem like Susan Pevensie?” and the second is my follow-up post, “8 Questions about the Problem of Susan Narnia Debate, or How to Read Well.” I suspect that someone famous on Twitter tweeted Kat’s post, which has generated a lot of activity. Even that, though, shows the eagerness of folk who want to talk about Lewis and Gender.

This fall I am teaching at Signum University a class called “C.S. Lewis and Mythologies of Love and Sex.” In this masters-level course, I use C.S. Lewis’ concept of four loves to structure a course about the great myths at the foundation of our culture. Ranging from the ancient world until now, these are the moments where stories of friendship, love, sex, marriage, fidelity, and devotion have intersected with the hinges of history. I have great students, so the class is going pretty well.

It is going so well that we decided to open our digital doors one night. One of the limitations of my approach is the deeply Christian nature of The Four Loves and a diverse student body. On top of that, Lewis makes some comments about gender and sexuality–including homosexuality and marriage–that sound strange or even troublesome to today’s ears. Yet it is a uniquely situated book, written not long after Lewis had fallen in love, and written in conversation with Joy Davidman.

There is no area of Lewis’ life and thought that is more scrutinized than that of gender and sexuality. Yet the conversation is worth having. So after opening up the Signum classroom to invite questions, critiques, and curiosities from the larger reading community, I want to share the open class with Lewis fans and scholars. It was a very cautious and generous discussion, and works to help get us deeper into The Four Loves and Lewis’ work. I hope you enjoy!

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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21 Responses to C.S. Lewis, Gender, and The Four Loves: An Open Class

  1. This is awesome! I just hosted a read-along of The Four Loves on my blog and it was such an eye-opener that some of us are going on to read Cicero’s On Friendship and The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm. Can’t wait to take your class! Thanks for sharing!


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