The problem of faith and the self: the interplay between literary art, apologetics and hermeneutics in C.S. Lewis's religious narratives

Chou, Hsiu-Chin (2008) The problem of faith and the self: the interplay between literary art, apologetics and hermeneutics in C.S. Lewis's religious narratives. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Based on the observation that “interdisciplinarity” is the essential nature of C. S. Lewis’s religious narratives created by twofold enterprise—imaginative writing and Christian apologetics, this thesis aims to undertake a comprehensive reception of Lewis’s works by considering carefully the inter-mixture of literary art and Christian apologetics within the texts and the relevance of the reader’s role to the textual experience. In other words, the whole study is oriented to combine literary analysis, apologetic reading and “hermeneutical” reflection upon the encounter between reader and text. The purpose in general is to demonstrate that Lewis’s literary world remains artistically engaging, religiously meaningful and existentially significant to the readers beyond his time.

The main part of the thesis presents a practice of close reading and multi-faceted discussion of five texts of Lewis, including: The Pilgrim’s Regress (an allegorical account of a modern man’s conversion), The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce (theological fantasies concerning interaction between subjective being and objective reality), Till We Have Faces (a mythic novel about the correlation between self-knowledge and religious experience), and A Grief Observed (a first-person narrative of an inward journey of coming to terms with grief and faith). Varied in literary modes of expression, these texts are read in terms of one common theme about the inter-related problem of faith and self. More specifically, they are treated as works of “literary apologetics”—written to manifest and tackle in an “existentialist” manner the alienated or disrupted relationship between the human self and religious / Christian faith.

In the concluding section, the discussion is moved from interpreting the texts to revisiting C. S. Lewis’s mind and rethinking the proper mindset for Lewis’s readers. This part of the discussion is intended firstly to re-estimate the enterprise of C. S. Lewis as a Christian thinker and literary writer through connecting and comparing his ways of thinking and reading with contemporary theologians and hermeneutical thinkers, particularly Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Ricoeur, and Hans-Georg Gadamer. Such association between Lewis and the contemporary trends of hermeneutics leads to the conclusion that C. S. Lewis is indeed an intellectually defensible thinker as well as literary figure in and even beyond his time. Moreover, it helps to fulfill the second objective of this final discussion, which is also the chief goal of the whole thesis, namely, to shed light on an appropriate way of reading C. S. Lewis.

Methodologically, this research is done on a cross-disciplinary basis in terms of a multiplicity of theoretical ideas concerning such topics as literary tropes, figures of speech, the psychology of religion, literary theory and (Kierkegaard’s) existentialist philosophy of irony, and hermeneutics. Illuminated by these miscellaneous tools of interpretation, the whole research looks to attest to the claim that the genuine experience of Lewis’s texts is not gained through simply appreciating the art of expression or digging out the underlying ideas of Christian apologetics, nor does it rest upon the response of the reader alone, but must rely on the co-working and interplay of all these three aspects of experience.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Prof. David
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-577
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:20

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