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C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication

Steven A. Beebe

C. S. Lewis, based on the popularity of his books and essays, is one of the best communicators of the twentieth century. During his lifetime he was hailed for his talents as author, speaker, educator, and broadcaster; he continues to be a best-selling author more than a half-century after his death.

C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication analyzes Lewis’s communication skill. A comprehensive review of Lewis’s work reveals five communication principles that explain his success as a communicator. Based on Lewis’s own advice about communication in his books, essays, and letters, as well as his communication practice, being a skilled communicator is to be holistic, intentional, transpositional, evocative, and audience-centered. These five principles are memorably summarized by the acronym HI TEA. Dr. Steven Beebe, past president of the National Communication Association and an internationally-recognized communication author and educator, uses Lewis’s own words to examine these five principles in a most engaging style.

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2 The Making of a Master Communicator

 

Extract

“[T];he only thing of any importance (if that is) about me is what I have to say … I can’t abide the idea that a man’s books should be “set in their biographical context” and if I had some rare information about the private life of Shakespeare or Dante I’d throw it in the fire, tell no one, and re-read their works. All this biographical interest is only a device for indulging in gossip as an excuse for not reading what the chaps say, [which] is their only real claim on our attention. (I here resist a wild impulse to invent some really exciting background—that I am an illegitimate son of Edward VII, married to a chimpanzee, was rescued from the practice of magic by a Russian monk, and always eat eggs with the shells on.)”1

- C. S. Lewis

“In his rooms in the New Building … I found a medium-size, rather stout, ruddy-faced man with a fine, large head (what the Germans call a ‘Charakterkopf’), and a booming voice much given to what someone once called ‘rhetorical guffawing’ (‘Ho, ho, ho, so you think Milton was ascetic, do you? Ho, ho! You are quite wrong there!’). Lewis looked—and often acted—like the book description of Friar Tuck. His general manner was pronouncedly and—it often seemed—deliberately hearty. But he displayed no heartiness during my first interview with him. Just as I was about to take my leave, Lewis said to...

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