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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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3 C. S. Lewis’s Big Ideas



“Somehow what Lewis thought about everything was secretly present in what he said about anything.”1

- Owen Barfield

“You’ll never get to the bottom of him.”2

- J. R. R. Tolkien

In a 1931 letter to Arthur Greeves, Lewis confessed that he did not always like his students. He admitted, “In every given year the pupils I really like are in a minority.” But he also added, “… but there is hardly a year in which I do not make some real friend. I am glad that people become more and more one of the sources of pleasure as I grow older.”3 For Lewis, “older” meant 33. One of his students who was to become a “real friend” was George Sayer.

Sayer, whose biography of Lewis is considered among the best because he knew Lewis over a span of many years as both teacher and friend, writes of his first experience in meeting Lewis, as well as a chance encounter with one of Lewis’s life-long friends, J. R. R. Tolkien. Sayer relates arriving at Magdalen College and searching for Lewis’s room in New Building (built in 1734—new for Oxford).4 ←71 | 72→He first sees “Tollers” whom Sayer describes as “a neat, gray-haired man with a pipe in his mouth and a puckish face.” Tollers asks, “Are you a pupil come for a tutorial?”

“No,” replies Sayer. “But Mr. Lewis is going to be my...

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