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C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication

Steven A. Beebe

C. S. Lewis, based on the popularity of his books and essays, is one of the best communicators of the twentieth century. During his lifetime he was hailed for his talents as author, speaker, educator, and broadcaster; he continues to be a best-selling author more than a half-century after his death.

C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication analyzes Lewis’s communication skill. A comprehensive review of Lewis’s work reveals five communication principles that explain his success as a communicator. Based on Lewis’s own advice about communication in his books, essays, and letters, as well as his communication practice, being a skilled communicator is to be holistic, intentional, transpositional, evocative, and audience-centered. These five principles are memorably summarized by the acronym HI TEA. Dr. Steven Beebe, past president of the National Communication Association and an internationally-recognized communication author and educator, uses Lewis’s own words to examine these five principles in a most engaging style.

“Who better to write the book on C. S. Lewis and the craft of communication than one of the foremost professors of communication in the world—Steven A. Beebe, who also happens to be a Lewis enthusiast? This book is a must-read for all who study the craft of communication, for all communicators who want to improve their art-form, and for all lovers of C. S. Lewis and his work. Even the latter are bound to learn something new from this book, since it is brimming over with insightful analysis. Beebe writes in a style as clear as water from a fresh, mountain spring, in a manner as engaging as a man on his knees with a ring in his hand, occasionally with a gentle humor befitting a Garrison Keillor, and always with the academic finesse of a bookworm in the bowels of the Bodleian Library. Bravo!”—Will Vaus, author of Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C. S. Lewis

“In exploring what made C. S. Lewis a master communicator, Steven A. Beebe has fine-tuned the Lewis biography with a wealth of freshly discovered details on the man and his writings. The combination of precise reasoning and an expansive imagination continues to make the Oxford don a compelling author. Through understanding better the communication principles Lewis followed, readers are invited to follow suit and become more effective communicators themselves.”—Bruce R. Johnson, General Editor of Sehnsucht: The C. S. Lewis Journal

“I envy Dr. Beebe because he has learned from C. S. Lewis what it is like to be able to say exactly what he means. But I’m getting beyond the envy, thanks to Dr. Beebe’s C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication. He wants us to be as clear in what we say, as in what we hear. And his book provides us with a framework and advice for how to do this well. Both men use these rules: ‘Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.’ ‘Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do.’ ‘If you mean, “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”’”—Walter Hooper, former secretary to C. S. Lewis, Literary Advisor of the C. S. Lewis Estate, and author of C. S. Lewis: A Companion and Guide

“If you have long loved C. S. Lewis—Christian apologist, children’s book author, Oxford and Cambridge scholar—viewing Lewis through the lens of what he can teach us about human communication is likely a new experience. Beebe’s decades of Lewis scholarship and teaching from a communication standpoint has led to this singular contribution that expands our understanding of and appreciation for Lewis. For those who aspire to teach students about Lewis’s power to move people through his written and oral communication, we now have the perfect primer.”—Diana K. Ivy, Professor of Communication Studies, Texas A & M University—Corpus Christi

“Here indeed we find a great treasure; in the beautifully conceived carefully written pages of this book, Steven A. Beebe has brilliantly answered a question readers have long felt but perhaps never formed: How did Lewis communicate so clearly? Bringing to bear a lifetime of distinguished scholarship and decades of keenly insightful thinking about Lewis, Beebe has created an indispensable aid not only for lovers of Lewis but for all who would communicate clearly themselves.”—Andrew Lazo, an independent scholar and speaker on C. S. Lewis, editor of “Early Prose Joy,” Lewis’s groundbreaking first spiritual autobiography, and co-editor, Mere Christians: Inspiring Stores of Encounters with C. S. Lewis

“Steven A. Beebe reveals that nobody can fully appreciate the genius of Lewis without seeing the brilliance of Lewis’s skill as a communicator. If you are going to learn about government you would like to have Abraham Lincoln at your elbow. If you want to learn about leadership, who would not love to tag along with Sir Winston Churchill? If you want to learn about American football, John Madden is the man to guide you.… When it comes to communication, Beebe is the one to facilitate the process of learning. Furthermore, when Beebe turns his attention to C. S. Lewis, the combination is unbeatable: Lewis the master communicator, and Beebe the master teacher.”—Jerry Root, Professor, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, and co-author of The Quotable C. S. Lewis

“Throughout his life C. S. Lewis thought much about how to speak and how to write, always seeking a human touch. Steven A. Beebe’s book is also based on a lifetime’s reflection, with the grateful acknowledgment of many insights from Lewis’s life, thinking and imagination. As with Lewis, Beebe’s love of the gift of language that all humans share is the foundation for truly understanding the important craft of communication. His book, in a unique manner, provides a rich portrait of many aspects of Lewis which, in their diversity, prove to be connected in a wholesome and attractive way.”—Colin Duriez, author of C. S. Lewis: A Biography of Friendship

“C. S. Lewis continues to enchant readers worldwide, in part because of what he said but also because of how he said it. This important book offers clear and surprisingly practical insight into a truly remarkable communicator. It is profound without being ponderous; it is useful without being formulaic. I learned a great deal in these pages, and I look forward to reading it again and again. I give it my highest recommendation.”—Diana Pavlac Glyer, Professor, The Honors College, Azusa Pacific University, and author of Bandersnatch and The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community

“Lewis, a communicator? If you think about it, of course. This makes sense to us intuitively, for how could Lewis such a good writer without knowing how to communicate to a reading audience? In C. S. Lewis and the Craft of Communication, we read the fascinating story of Steven A. Beebe discovering a lost manuscript, or at least thought to be lost, the manuscript on communication that Lewis and Tolkien talked about writing together. The book never happened, but the reasons why help us understand both Lewis and Tolkien. More importantly, throughout Dr. Beebe’s book, we read about the development of C. S. Lewis the communicator, whose facility in language and English literature, along with many other factors, led to the making of the twentieth century’s most famous Christian writer, and communicator, topics of interest to any communicator.”—Joel Heck, Professor, Concordia University Texas, and author of Irrigating Deserts: C. S. Lewis on Education

“C. S. Lewis understood the theory and practice of the medieval trivium (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) better than anyone in his generation, but far too little attention has been given to his extraordinary skill as a communicator. Steven A. Beebe brings to this gap in scholarship his own formidable experience and expertise as a professor of communication, and also a keen personal enthusiasm. The result is a thoughtful, insightful, delightful book that informs, instructs and illuminates.”—Michael Ward, Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford, co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis, and author of Planet Narnia and The Narnia Code

“When you write a book about how effective C. S. Lewis was at communicating, then your presentation better be interesting and engaging to the reader. Beebe definitely delivers in this work! Those who know little more than his stories about Narnia will learn the breadth and range Lewis had in his other writings (and places where he spoke). If you are well versed in what Lewis wrote, then you’ll have a clearer picture of why you enjoy his writings so much. Individuals with only an interest in communication, and caring little about Lewis, will walk away with a better understanding of how to communicate effectively and find they enjoyed learning about Lewis along the way. The way Beebe organizes his book and presents it in his chapters is both entertaining and educational. I remember coming across a writer, in my field of professional counseling years ago, who for the first time gave me this experience. Each chapter of the book offered an overview of what was going to be presented, laid it out and then provided a summary without making me feel like I was being talked down to. Beebe lays out five principles gleaned from his obvious knowledge of Lewis’s vast works and clearly backs them up. Then in the final chapter of his book, you are given practical ways to put into practice what you’ve learned. It is a delightful read that is clearly presented and surely a work that stands out in the crowded field of books related to Lewis.”—William O’Flaherty, author of The Misquotable C. S. Lewis and C. S. Lewis Goes to Hell and host of the podcast All About Jack