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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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I had my “Indiana Jones” moment of discovery while watching my clothes tumble in a laundromat dryer in San Marcos, Texas. Several years before my laundry insight, in Oxford University’s 400-year-old Bodleian Library, I had stumbled on an unpublished, unidentified partial book manuscript by author C. S. Lewis. But at the time I first read it, I didn’t know its significance. Seven years later, in a single “Eureka!” laundromat moment, I realized what I had discovered. I had found a manuscript whose existence was doubted by most Lewis scholars: the opening pages of a planned collaboration between Lewis and The Lord of the Rings author J. R. R. Tolkien. Who would have thought that a laundry epiphany would solve a decades-old literary mystery involving two of the twentieth century’s most famous authors? The contents of that manuscript provided just the evidence I needed that C. S. Lewis was, among his many talents, also a communication professor. Discovering that manuscript provided the principal impetus for this book.

Communication is my life. I have spent more than forty years as a communication professor and author and co-author of several widely-used communication college textbooks.2 I have also had the privilege of serving as president of the National Communication Association, the largest academic professional association of communication educators and scholars in the world. Yet discovering Lewis and ←xv | xvi→Tolkien’s ideas about language and human nature was like finding the wardrobe door into some of the most important lessons I...

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