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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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Afterword. Seeing in Part, Through Different Eyes 159


Afterword Seeing in Part, Through Different Eyes No one holds the truth, or can hold it, in one and the same thought, but God. Our human life is often, at best, but an oscillation between the extremes which together make the truth…. (George MacDonald, The Seaboard Parish Ch. 2) t is a good idea to see with eyes other than our own. As C.S. Lewis has said in “On the Reading of Old Books,” every era has its unique insights and therefore its typical kinds of blindness. That is why earlier writers informed by paradigms other than our own may help to remedy the particularity of our impaired vision (202). We know what typically makes us cringe today; we might be surprised to know what in our time will make future generations cringe. The idea that gender discourse is the most controversial topic in Lewis studies today tells us perhaps more about our time than about C.S. Lewis. Certainly Lewis’s use of gender metaphor has evoked discomfort, even in otherwise favourably inclined critics, including Alan Jacobs, Diana Pavlac Glyer, and perhaps also Kathryn Lindskoog.1 But our response to the “problematic” use of gender metaphor probably tells us a lot about ourselves, less about older paradigms. The purpose of this study has been to consider what Lewis’s celebration of gender metaphor illustrates about spirituality that we more easily miss. In our time we tend to see with the modern lens of democracy, as if we were only political beings, and any...

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