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

Preface by Elizabeth Baird Hardy

Series:

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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Chapter One. True Royalty: Becoming Yourself in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 21

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Chapter One True Royalty: Becoming Yourself in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe “Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. Bear it well…!” (Ch. 17) he Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), the first of the Chroni- cles of Narnia to be written and published,1 commences C.S. Lewis’s venture into writing children’s literature. The informing metaphor of this novel is royalty, not so much royalty in station, although this is relevant, but royalty as a metaphor for spiritual identity.2 True royals are servants of the divine, Aslan, the ultimate King of Narnia, and the story centers around questions of “royal” or spiritual identity-formation. Who are the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, and who will they become? Pleasure-seekers? Power-seekers? Or royal heirs in a divine kingdom? Why is the White Witch both the Queen and not the legitimate queen of Narnia? If Aslan is the true King, why does he seem to abdicate his rule in dying? In exploring the answers to these questions, the four Pevensies learn the truth that spiritual heroism is a transformative and lifelong commitment. At their coronation, Aslan declares, “Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. Bear it well, Sons of Adam! Bear it well, Daughters of Eve!” (165). In becoming royalty, the Pevensies grow into “feminine” spiritual heroes. It is a high and difficult calling, a weight to bear, as Aslan says (and as Lewis has said of coronation)...

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