Wednesday, November 27, 2013

C. S. Lewis's Defense of Western Literacy

Bruce L. Edwards, Jr., A Rhetoric of Reading: C. S. Lewis's Defense of Western Literacy. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University, 1986.

Edwards includes a quote from Nehemiah in the early pages of the book: "They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. . . . (8:8)." This is a good definition of Lewis's goal for criticism--to help the reader to understand the text at hand. Edwards in A Rhetoric of Reading: C. S. Lewis's Defense of Western Literacy seeks to bring Lewis into conversation with modern literary criticism. He argues that Lewis can help us to develop a more sane approach to literary criticism. Edwards gives reasons for Lewis being an excellent guide in the reading of literary texts: "Lewis viewed the critics task to be that of clearing away debris from the reader's line of sight, allowing him to read the written text as free as possible of chronological or cultural motes beams." Edward's book shows Lewis to be an excellent guide. In some sense he takes the good points of different types of literary criticism and synthesizes them in a workable format that helps the reader to encounter the other in texts.

Edwards describes three contemporary models of literary criticism in chapter one: New Criticism, Reader-Response, and Deconstructionism. Edwards does a good job in making these theories understandable. In chapter two he discusses Lewis's "epistemology and the integrity of the text." He shows how Lewis's epistemology "informed" his view on the "reading/writing process." In this chapter Edwards argues that Lewis defended the integrity of the text and its intended meaning. In chapter three he speaks of "authorial intention, and in chapter four he analyses Lewis's An Experiment in Criticism. In the last chapter he develops a synthesis of Lewis's eclectic approach. Edwards concludes that Lewis provides us with a "balanced approach to discourse and to literature which takes into account these grammatical, philological, and sociological dimensions." Lewis's approach keeps in balance the relationships between the reader, writer, text, and world.

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