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Forms and Shadows: A Cognitive-Poetic Reading of Charles Williams’s Fiction


Edited By Andrzej Sławomir Kowalczyk

This book is a cognitive-poetic study of the seven novels of Charles Williams (1886–1945), a British author of spiritual fiction and non-fiction, a poet, playwright and a literary critic. It approaches his multidimensional narratives with reference to cognitive phenomena and mechanisms such as the figure-ground organization, conceptual metaphors, conceptual blending, image schemata, scripts, cognitive narrative frames, narrative spaces, cognitive deixis, and empathy. The methodology not only stresses the role of the reader’s conceptual and emotional involvement in the building of the story-worlds, but also reveals the novels’ polyphonic character.

"This book is a convincing and thought-provoking study of Charles Williams’s fiction, which uncovers the unique, ambiguous senses of his works."

Prof. Grzegorz Maziarczyk,

The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

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Chapter One C.W.: The Man and His Works



This chapter—the shortest one in the book—is meant to serve as a starting point for the subsequent readings of Williams’s, or, C.W.’s,1 seven novels, also classified as “supernatural thrillers” (cf. Introduction, n.2). It offers an overview of Williams’s life and works, little known to the general reader, as well as discussing major critical accounts of Williams’s fiction. This is intended not only to provide the reader with the possibility of acquiring some frame knowledge about the topic but also to stress the novelty of the cognitive-poetic approach against the background of previous studies of the novels.

The Man

Although in recent years there can be observed a growth of scholarly interest in the literary and non-literary works of Charles Williams, evident not only in the number of individual studies but also in successive re-editions of primary texts,2 he still remains a generally unknown author. Officially labelled as a “minor British novelist” (Hoyt 1967), Williams may be said to have vanished from the focus of critics and scholars in the second half of the twentieth century, with the exception of a group of his former students, friends, and other admirers. He is missing not only from the Encyclopaedia Britannica—which pertains to both the last printed, fifteenth, edition (1991) and the online version (2016)3—but also from Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature (2006), where his name appears only marginally, in such ← 31 | 32 → entries as, for instance,...

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