The fiction of C.S. Lewis: Mythic theory in practice

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1972

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Lawrence, Woolf and Cary seem to represent an ambiguous attitude toward sexuality, the dialectics of which are centered in their approaches to penetration as action and as metaphor. The main question that emerges is for the artist, is the creative mind asexual, androgynous, or patently sexual? There are two sorts of penetration, physical and nonphysical, the latter represented by what I have called artistic penetration as evidenced by the novel. Physical penetration, as a term, avoids the necessity of defining "sexual" and also takes into account penetration by non-sexual means, though such means may be metaphorically sexual. The precise relationship between physical and non-physical penetration varies from author to author and book to book so that either action may be the metaphor in any particular case. To state categorically which metaphor holds the greater meaning would necessitate a more far-reaching statement about the nature of human affairs than I am prepared to make, but the fact that such a metaphorical relationship exists can tell us a great deal about the process, and perhaps ultimately the significance, of literary art.C. 3. Lewis' many-sided and prolific literary career centers on a deep concern for traditional Christianity. The strong, though indirect influence of this concern is reflected in his unusual definition of myth, which forms the focal point of his literary theory. According to his theory, one is able to catch a glimpse of ultimate reality, or God, through myth. Since man's limited comprehensive powers cannot fully understand ultimate reality, they cannot fully grasp the numerous implications arising from a myth which attempts to suggest it. The highest response to such a reality is an imaginative appreciation which can be experienced only through a great myth. Thus Lewis considered the effective presentation of myth to be the highest goal of artistic endeavor. The main purpose of this thesis is to show how well Lewis' own fiction measures up to his critical standards. His concept of myth remains generally unchanged after Its formulation early In his career. In his earlier works, however, he attempts an allegorical presentation of his Interrelated religious and literary ideas, while in the laternovels he turns toward a myltiic presentation. He displays a growing proficiency in exemplifying his theory. The culmination of tills creative process is found in Till We Have Faces, his last and finest novel.

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