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The Modern Scholar

Literature of C. S. Lewis
Narrated by: Timothy Shutt
Length: 7 hrs and 49 mins
4 out of 5 stars (50 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

C. S. Lewis produced a body of work as diverse as it is beloved. He is known the world over for his cherished Chronicles of Narnia, but he is also the author of novels for adults, scholarly work, and the writings that rival his Narnia series in terms of continued popularity: his eloquent defences of Christianity.

A friend to J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis spent much of his life at Oxford surrounded by academics who often held him in contempt for his Christian views (though few could fail to admire Lewis for his skills as a writer and his exhaustive knowledge of literature). In this course, we will look at Lewis's life and examine the influences that would help to shape Lewis both as a man and as a writer. We will take an in-depth look at Lewis's science-fiction trilogy, his Chronicles of Narnia, his apologetic and scholarly works, and his other writings.

In doing so, we will come to understand the major thematic elements that mark Lewis's work. More importantly, perhaps, we will come to a finer appreciation of a writer whose true testament may be that which he strove for in all his major works: the evocation of "joy".

©2004 Timothy Shutt (P)2004 Recorded Books, LLC

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Worthwhile for anyone interested in Lewis

As the title indicates, this lecture series mainly focuses on C. S. Lewis's fiction (the Chronicles of Narnia, the Space Trilogy, Till We Have Faces), though Professor Shutt does spend some time discussing C. S. Lewis's life and his non-fictional writings. Shutt assumes you've read the books he's discussing (at one point in one of the lectures, he says "You've read the book; what do you think?"), and you'll get the most out of the lectures if you're familiar with Lewis's books; but even if there are some you haven't read, or haven't read in a long time, the lectures are still worth listening to.

I found these lectures to be consistently interesting and insightful, and they left me with new appreciation for C. S. Lewis. Shutt is knowledgeable, not only about Lewis's own writings, but about the literary background that Lewis himself loved and was influenced by. Shutt comes across as an appreciator of Lewis, but not an uncritical, gushing fanboy. He doesn't hesitate to talk about what he or others have found flawed or unsuccessful in Lewis's writings in addition to talking about the things Lewis did particularly well. And Shutt doesn't shy away from talking about Lewis's Christian faith and its influence on his writing, but in a way that neither Christian nor nonchristian listeners should find off-putting.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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An Academic Appreciation

There is one unexpected interlude in the general academic analysis. At the beginning of lecture 13 Professor Shutt rightly identifies the heart of Lewis’s apologetic approach: addressing the social and professional cost of Christian faith. After detailing the price Lewis paid, Shutt outlines our current cultural situation: how faith is only an option for those weak in the head, while any faith but Christianity is “fashionable”, from Buddhism to Materialism. It’s a startling dose of truth, even from one who has always been conspicuous for his lack of reflexive antagonism to the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Reviewing the smorgasbord of intellectual objections to Christian belief, Shutt gives primacy to the old Marxist canard that religion is a tool with which the powerful maintain their power. Unfortunately, he doesn’t close the loop: disapproval of Christianity is now used by the powerful for the very same ends. However, he’s right about all “intellectual” objections; they merely cover our unwillingness to conform to the moral demands of faith—especially those concerning human sexuality. It’s an instance of the same unnerving insight with which he credits Lewis’ apologetics.

But overall, this is (as it should be) an academic appreciation of Lewis’ literary output. Shutt is, after all, a professor, not a theologian. And it’s a tribute to Lewis’ popularity that Shutt assumes we’ve read the novels under discussion, sometimes even asking us, “What do you think?”. Still, I got less out of these talks than I expected. Most of the class time is spent on the Chronicles of Narnia; we learn something of their literary and intellectual background which may inspire me to try them again, but I fear it’s too late; man or boy, in spite of their universal appeal they’ve never appealed to me. In three lectures on The Space Trilogy, the first two volumes receive high marks while the third—my favorite—receives fainter praise. Most disappointingly, the single talk on Till We Have Faces didn’t really advanced my understanding of that novel to any great extent.

The single cursory lecture on Lewis’ apologetic books dwells largely on the Kantian underpinnings of his thinking rather than the works themselves. The final lecture on Lewis’ academic writings is, in it's way, touching; you can hear something very near reverence as Shutt describes them. There's interesting stuff throughout these lectures, but those moments of epiphany that are usually Professor Shutt’s stock in trade really aren’t here. Or, at least, not for me.

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