Argument, style and romance in the prose works of C. S. Lewis

Neilson, David Hall (1983) Argument, style and romance in the prose works of C. S. Lewis. MLitt(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The thesis is designed to examine a number of aspects of the prose of C.S. Lewis. Those dealt with are not necessarily commeasurable, but are handled with regard to the balance between incidence and significance. Lewis's arguments, for instance are given an amount of space which reflects their importance in Lewis's body of work, but the thesis drives towards a consideration of Lewis's eschatological romanticism, since that is his noblest legacy. The introduction is largely confined to a description of Lewis's literary career. To the image of Lewis as infallible monolith, it counter poses an idea of Lewis moving slowly from askesis to Beatific Vision. It tries also to establish critical practice for the following chapters, in which undue veneration is supplanted by decent respect for the writings. The introduction defines, in its conclusion, the Lewisian skandalon, and the unique, full~ blooded attempt that Lewis makes to redeem his own inadequacies. The second chapter. Critics & Ideas, develops the recognition of exact qualities in Lewis's romanticism, and its pastoral intention. It poses Lewis as an explorer of inner space, indeed as a searcher for an ontological pole. It notes Lewis's desire to make Heaven a matter of nervous excitement for the reader, and describes his feeling that this very faculty is of supernatural origin. On such business, the chapter reviews the more substantial critical reactions to Lewis, and remarks upon their tendency to avoid this central area of concern. Words, the third chapter, deals with Lewis's prose style, taking as its starting point a typical claim by one critic for its beauty and clarity. The chapter presses, in response, a view of Lewis's prose as being chiefly valuable for its efficiency. It considers in passing the charge that the prose is a farrago of borrowings, and concludes that such derivativeness as is present does not devalue the particular synthesis forged. This chapter selects passages on a largely random basis and analyses them. It notes particularly Lewis's rhetorical parallelisms, his semantic weightings, and his oratorical idiom. It notes to the adaption of these discursive traits to fictional presentation. Prom the general prospect of a robust prose it goes in quest of the beautiful Lewisian style, and upholds the case of one exemplary essay, finding a use of metaphor which transforms common structure, and the growth of a style which communicates extreme longing. The next chapter is the first of three concerned with Lewis's skill in debate. It tries to form a picture of Lewis's essential political stances, recording initially the frequent charges of revanchism levelled at Lewis, It traces his first political stirrings and their contribution to the idea that Lewis withdrew from political debate. Examining Lewis's opinions, the chapter finds that Lewis could be illogical, misleading and inconsistent in his social philosophy, and it looks at occasions on which the guiding spirit appears to be maliciousness. It recognises Lewis's expressions of social desiderata, clothed as Christian wisdom, as blatantly sectional, and it resents the incorporation of these attitudes by some critics into a consonant scheme of Christian thinking developed by Lewis. But a real liberal strain in Lewis is also acknowledged, and the chapter concludes with a view of Lewi as a half-baked but not utterly inhumane social critic. Chapter Five examines the logical standard of Lewis's explicit agreements for moral and religious positions. It attempts to find a balance between Lewis's button-holing, with its attendant stimulation, and his resultant motions to conclude on complex issues, a forceful and sometimes forced Socratic method. Examples of logical wilfulness are offered, with reference to specific critical claims on Lewis's behalf. One essay, finally, is adopted as a sturdy argument, and it is defended against general coolness. The last chapter dealing with arguments looks at Lewis use of fiction for proselytisation and debate. It considers several positions: the use of characters for the expression of unresolved doubt, argument as entertainment, as strategy, or even from obsessiveness. Different qualities of debate are noted in Lewis's fiction. Examples from the same trilogy are opposed, showing in one case that Lewis uses debate mechanically, in a false climax, while a more deeply-structured argument is taking place in the sensibilities of the characters. In another, and more thoroughly examined, case, Lewis devolves a major part of a novel's structure upon an argument, and comments upon its value in the course of the narrative development. The extent to which the argument is consistent, logical and artistically integrated is considered. An attempt is made to seek out the genuine locus of debate, and a case is pressed for Lewis's use of the discursive novel as arguing out an unquietness of soul, made all the more complex by Lewis's simultaneous assessment of the worth of his own arguments. The final chapter, Saved by Joy, looks at Lewis's main achievement, described in the thesis as 'the sensible rendering of Christian ontology'. It examines the relations between the act of writing and the feelings of 3oy, salvation and deliverance which burst from time to time into Lewis's narratives. The argument is that Lewis works as in a variety of gears, and that one, in which he shows passionate delight in the thought of Christian expectations made manifest, is far and away his most valuable. Passages are quoted to show Lewis in this his most characteristic and joyful mode.

Item Type: Thesis (MLitt(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: English literature
Date of Award: 1983
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1983-71629
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 14:02
Last Modified: 10 May 2019 14:02
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/71629

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