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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 Seven. Fighting the Battle of Faith in The Last Battle 138


Chapter Seven Fighting the Battle of Faith in The Last Battle “The light is dawning, the lie broken.” (Ch. 7) he Last Battle (1956), the seventh of the Chronicles of Narnia to be published and winner of the Carnegie Medal, completes C.S. Lewis’s children’s stories. This final story, as the title suggests, depicts Narnia’s Armageddon. The story takes place during the reign of the last king of Narnia, Tirian, when apostasy and related treachery have overtaken the land. Tirian is joined by a few Narnian friends, in particular Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb, and together they fight a seemingly losing battle against dark forces of the Apocalypse: Shift the Ape, the Antichrist character who uses the false Aslan, Puzzle the donkey, to deceive Narnians in a Calormene scheme to conquer their land.1 The informing metaphor of this novel is battle, but not so much physical battle as a battle of faith. Who will keep true faith in Aslan? Who will recognize and fight on the side of truth regardless of the cost? And what does victory mean? While drawing his sword, King Tirian announces his watchword to the Calormene soldiers. This bold challenge—“The light is dawning, the lie broken” (67)—is a prophetic commitment, the outcome of which he will gradually discover him- self. In this story Lewis subverts the “masculine” apostasy of the many with the “feminine” faithfulness of the few. And again, as in every Narnian age, the battle lines traverse every heart. Each individ- ual, whether...

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