Releasing C. S. Lewis from the Shadowlands
: rereading the trilogy and a grief observed in the light of contemporary theory

  • Wendy Elizabeth Beresford-Maning

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    My thesis arises out of a conviction that C. S. Lewis has been trapped in the 'shadowlands' created by the 'colonisation' of his texts by a particular sort of reading - the foundation stone of which is the unassailable Christian certainty propounded by fundamentalist Christians. This seems to have limited other possible readings of his works and to have led to an unwillingness to examine Lewis's works in the light of contemporary literary theory because it is seen as being ideologically opposed to Christianity. It is my contention that to approach Lewis from the standpoint of contemporary literary theory is to free the fantasy/science fiction trilogy and A Grief Observed, in particular, from these strictures. At its most basic my thesis is that to read Lewis's works in the context of such theory is to free them to construct a range of possible meanings, rather than to restrict them to a narrow range of closed readings. In order to test this hypothesis, and since I have adopted an eclectic approach to the theories which have informed my readings of Lewis, I have also undertaken a critical review of contemporary literary theory - particularly deconstruction, reader response and play theories - noting that C. S . Lewis developed his own experimental, eclectic and pragmatic theories of reading which to some extent co­incide quite fortuitously with some aspects of current theories of reading or constructing texts. My reading of Lewis will stress the contingent nature of reality and the complex and fundamental significance of language in the construction both of text and reality. I shall also refer to several works of Adrian Plass in an attempt to demonstrate that any 'successors' of Lewis must situate themselves within this world of contingent reality in which language is central both to the reader's and writer's perception of reality and, in the case of Lewis's work, of God.
    Date of AwardMay 1996
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorJ. Mark Davis (Supervisor)

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