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The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewisʼs «Chronicles of Narnia»

Preface by Elizabeth Baird Hardy


Monika Hilder

C. S. Lewis, fantasy novelist, literary scholar, and Christian apologist, is one of the most original and well-known literary figures of the twentieth century. As one who stood at the crossroads of Edwardian and modern thinking, he is often read as a sexist or even misogynistic man of his time, but this fresh rereading assesses Lewis as a prescient thinker who transformed typical Western gender paradigms. The Feminine Ethos in C. S. Lewis’s ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ proposes that Lewis’s highly nuanced metaphorical view of gender relations has been misunderstood precisely because it challenges Western chauvinist assumptions on sex and gender. Instead of perpetuating sexism, Lewis subverts the culturally inherited chauvinism of «masculine» classical heroism with the biblically inspired vision of a surprisingly «feminine» spiritual heroism. His view that we are all «feminine» in relation to the «masculine» God – a theological feminism that crosses gender lines – means that qualities we tend to consider to be feminine, such as humility, are the qualities essential to being fully human. This book’s theoretical framework is Lewis’s own, grounded in his view of biblical thinking, as he was informed by writers such as Milton, Wordsworth, and George MacDonald, and in terms of the uniquely progressive implications for twentieth-first century cultural studies. This highly insightful and entertaining study of theological feminism in Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia will be compelling for anyone interested in children’s and fantasy literature, Inklings scholarship, gender discourse, ethical and spiritual discourse, literature and theology, and cultural studies in general.


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Preface hose of us who have paid repeat visits to C.S. Lewis's Narnia probably feel that we know that country well. We imagine we could easily navigate our way from the lamp post of Lantern Waste to the gates of Cair Paravel on the eastern seashore. We think we know the taste of Mrs. Beaver's marmalade roll, the feel of the prickly branches just inside the wardrobe, or the sound of fauns' hooves on snow. Whether we have read the books for scholarship or sheer pleasure, or, as Lewis read his favorite books, both for enjoy- ment and academic pursuit, we feel confident in our travels. It is thus surprising and delightful when we are led past those fa- miliar landmarks with a guide who encourages us to take that which we thought we knew and see it in a new light. Dr. Monika Hilder is just such a guide. In this volume, she beckons us to reconsider the Narnian ideal of heroism. For most readers, this is a concept that immediately conjures images of bold Reepicheep the Mouse brandish- ing his rapier, of the disenchanted Prince Rilian lopping off the head of the serpentine Green Witch, of Peter Pevensie slaying the wolf Maugrim. Yet, we are here challenged to look beyond those obvious exhibitions of heroics to an ethos of heroism that is more traditionally associated with “feminine” characteristics of compassion and passivi- ty than with more “masculine” traits of aggression and activity. Feats of courage in this kind...

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