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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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6 Transpositional

 

Extract

“If the richer system is to be represented in the poorer at all, this can only be by giving each element in the poorer system more than one meaning. The transposition of the richer into the poorer must, so to speak, be algebraical, not arithmetical.”1

- C. S. Lewis

“The very essence of our life as conscious beings, all day and every day, consists of something which cannot be communicated except by hints, similes, metaphors …”2

- C. S. Lewis

On December 4, 1916, Lewis took his first steps in Oxford, a city that was to be his primary home until his death 47 years later. When writing about his first visit to Oxford in his autobiography Surprised by Joy, he admits he made no prior arrangements for lodging; rather, he planned to spontaneously see what he could find when he arrived. When he left the Oxford railroad station on foot, luggage in hand, he had high anticipation of seeing the famous Oxford domes and spires. As he later recalled, he was “all agog for ‘dreaming spires’ and ‘last enchantments’.”3 But he was soon puzzled and even disappointed at what he saw. Approaching Oxford from the South, Lewis would have arrived at the train station on platform 2, just as he would have if he arrived in Oxford from the South today. As he started walking, he saw no grand town, tall spires, or beautiful parapets, but what he described...

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