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The Personal Heresy: A Controversy Paperback – August 7, 2008

3 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


Those who only read his Christian Apologetics and stop short of his Literary Criticism are cutting themselves off from about half of what made C. S. Lewis--C. S. Lewis. It is a terrible shame, but it can be put right by reading this seminal work. I rejoice that it is being reprinted! Walter Hooper. --Personal Letter

It is too late to travel to Oxford and hear C. S. Lewis argue, lecture, laugh, discuss, dispute, debate. All the texts that remain tell us one side of the story, offer one half of the conversation. Except this one. Here we have front row seats to observe 'the formidable battery of Mr. Lewis's dialectic.' 'The Personal Heresy' shows Lewis in context, and it is a thrilling experience. Diana Pavlac Glyer --Personal Letter

Does Lewis win, draw, or lose this debate with Tillyard about biographical criticism? Are the terms of the contest even correct? Although on the face of it a period piece, this dispute reverberates interestingly into more modern arguments over feminist and Marxist theory and indeed over whether a text contains any stable meaning at all. Come, follow this keen, intellectual boxing match and make your own mind up! Michael Ward. --Personal Letter

About the Author

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), Fellow in English, Magdalen College, Oxford (1925-1954), and Magdalene College, Cambridge (1955-1963), is the author of 'The Screwtape Letters,' 'Mere Christianity,' the Chronicles of Narnia, and many other books and essays. Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard (1889-1962), Fellow in English (1926-1954) at Jesus College, Cambridge, and later Master of Jesus College (1945-1954), wrote 'The Elizabethan World Picture,' 'Milton,' 'The Miltonic Setting: Past and Present,' and many other works.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 129 pages
  • Publisher: Concordia University Press (August 7, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1881848108
  • ISBN-13: 978-1881848103
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,458,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.

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I enjoyed reading this book, but it convinces me more than ever that C.S. Lewis was not a good literary critic. He writes about poetry as if he were a philosopher, constructing syllogistic arguments that have nothing to do with the experience of poetry. Fortunately, as Tillyard indicates in his responses, reading poetry isn't about applying logic to prove emotional truths, and his responses are the better part of the exchange.

F.R. Leavis never tired of stating that literary criticism was not a branch of philosophy (or any other discipline), but it's a lesson that Lewis never learned.

In his defense Lewis and his epigones would likely argue that the issue at stake in this debate bears on poetry but is a much larger subject, which could be called "the nature and destiny of man". All well and good, but it doesn't illuminate the subject discussed and should have been confined to Lewis' "theological" books and essays, all of which are now completely outmoded, because they're based on utterly discounted assumptions (e.g., that the New Testament is somehow an historical record of Jesus' life).

If you're a Lewis completist, you should buy this book. If you're interested in poetry and lit crit, Tillyard's contributions may interest you, but they're not so profound that you'll think putting up with Lewis lucubrations is worth the trouble of getting to them.
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