25257Shippey review of CSL "Image and Imagination"
- Apr 25, 2014
The April 18 issue of TLS had a review by Tom Shippey of "Images and Imagination: Essays and Reviews" by CS Lewis. They also, in their "Then and Now" section reprinted a review from 9/30/1960 of Lewis' "Studies in Words" by William Empson. TLS seems to be dilatory about getting this material online plus their internal search engine seems to be on the fritz, so if anyone wants to see either or both, email me at davise@... and I'll send a scan.
Two quotes from Shippey:
The two longer essays that open the volume are Lewis on "The idea of an 'English school' " and "Our Oxford syllabus", both from the 1930's and both moves in the struggle between philologists and critics which had been decided well before Lewis' death. These no longer show to much advantage. Lewis' claims that "There is an intrinsic absurdity in making current literature a subject of academic study" or that "The man who does not know [Anglo-Saxon] remains all his life a child among real English students" --- well there may have been a case for the kind of syllabus Lewis wanted, but Lewis' knock-down debating style no longer helps to make it, if it ever did.
Lewis's literary judgements were often generously erratic. He was quite right to point out (and the first person to do so) that Tolkien's running contrast between the heroic feats of Aragorn and Théoden and the tiny creeping figures of Sam and Frodo "like mice on a slag-heap" is "a structural invention of the highest order", especially as "the fate of the world depends far more on the small movement than the great". On the other hand, Lewis' belief that Charles Williams' Arthurian poems were "among the two or three most valuable books of verse produced in the [twentieth] century" --- well, once again, the case needed to be made, not just the verdict asserted.
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