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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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4 Holistic



“I use speaker throughout to cover writer as well.”1

- C. S. Lewis

“Now the great and I think all but unique essential in C. S. Lewis’s makeup was a remarkable combination of two qualities normally supposed to be opposites. I mean on the one hand a deep and vivid imagination and on the other hand a profoundly analytical mind.”2

- Clyde Kilby

“There is no antithesis, indeed no distinction, between Rhetoric and Poetry.”3

- C. S. Lewis

What would it have been like to be Reepicheep, the mythical mouse from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, hiding in a corner to watch C. S. Lewis prepare his first Broadcast Talk for the BBC in August 1941? Unfortunately, Reepicheep left no description of this historic moment—historic because eleven years later, the words would become part of Mere Christianity, a book heralded by Christianity Today readers as the best Christian book written in the 20th century.4 One can only guess what Reepicheep would have seen if he had indeed been in Lewis’s room at Magdalen College or Lewis’s study at The Kilns, while Lewis wrote the scripts ←101 | 102→that survived and are now housed in the BBC archives in Reading, England. But Lewis himself did leave clues.

If Lewis followed his usual routine, he would have dipped his nibbed pen in the ink, paused, pondered, and pronounced the words (sometimes silently, at other...

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