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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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Chapter Four. Guarding the Gift of Memory in The Silver Chair 78


Chapter Four Guarding the Gift of Memory in The Silver Chair “Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.” (Ch. 2) he Silver Chair (1953), the fourth of the Chronicles of Narnia to be published, follows the adventures of Eustace Scrubb and his school friend, Jill Pole. In fleeing the bullies at their English boarding school, Experiment House, Eustace and Jill call upon Aslan and the two are instantly transported to Narnia, where Aslan tells Jill that he has in fact called them into Narnia for a difficult task. A few months have lapsed in England since Eustace’s return from Narnia in The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader,” and about fifty years1 have passed in this country. Eustace realizes with a shock that his good friend, the boy king Caspian the Tenth, is now an aged man near death. In the tradition of “unlikely” child-saviours,2 the children learn that they are called to do what thirty of King Caspian’s best champions (knights, centaurs, and good giants) have failed to do (53): to search for the long-lost Prince Rilian and return him to his father’s house (29). The informing metaphor of this novel is memory. Memory signi- fies consciousness of spiritual identity as free subjects of Aslan, what the children have at the outset—and loss of memory signifies en- slavement to evil, what the enchanted Prince Rilian suffers under. In order for the children to achieve their task, Aslan gives Jill four signs she is to remember...

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