HUM 395: Special Topics in Humanities: C.S. Lewis
January 2-12, 2018
“The Medieval Imagination of C.S. Lewis: Reason and Faith in the Space Trilogy”
A study of the influences and thought of C. S. Lewis, with special attention to how the Medieval worldview shaped his imagination, apologetics, and vision of “mere Christianity.”
Best known as the author of classics such as Mere Christianity, The Great Divorce, and The Chronicles of Narnia, C. S. Lewis has been loved for generations as a creative and articulate apologist for the Christian faith. But readers don’t often try to pin down either the nature or the source of Lewis’s enduring genius. What, beyond a passionate personal commitment to God, are the qualities that distinguish him from the shallow and tepid moralism that characterizes so much Christian writing today? This course will seek an answer in terms of what Clyde Kilby called the “two qualities” with which Lewis was remarkably gifted: “a deep and vivid imagination and . . . a profoundly analytical mind.”
But we will also be interested in a related question: how and why did medieval cosmology influence Lewis’s worldview? Throughout his university career, he returned repeatedly to teach and write on medieval classics such as Spenser’s Faerie Queen, Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Romance of the Rose, Beowulf, and others. Medieval themes, scenery, and symbols fill his fiction, especially The Chronicles of Narnia, as Michael Ward has shown in Planet Narnia. However, the less well-known Space Trilogy bears even stronger witness to the deep influence of medieval cosmology in Lewis’s thought.
In answering both these questions, the course will focus on the Space Trilogy, portions of Mere Christianity, and selections from several other works as we seek to understand Lewis’s influences and craft, and as we ask what it would take to raise up the C. S. Lewises of the future. Along the way we engage with some themes central to Lewis’s medieval Christian vision: the nature of masculine and feminine as created and woven into the cosmos; the nature of (true) love and knowledge; the way sin distorts nature while grace corrects and glorifies it; the way the cosmos shows the energy and logos of the Creator.