C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy

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Overview

C.S. Lewis's celebrated Space Trilogy - Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength - was completed over sixty years ago and has remained in print ever since. In this groundbreaking study, Sanford Schwartz offers a new reading that challenges the conventional view of these novels as portraying a clear-cut struggle between a pre-modern cosmology and the modern scientific paradigm that supplanted it.

Schwartz situates Lewis's work in the context of modern ...

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C. S. Lewis on the Final Frontier: Science and the Supernatural in the Space Trilogy

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Overview

C.S. Lewis's celebrated Space Trilogy - Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength - was completed over sixty years ago and has remained in print ever since. In this groundbreaking study, Sanford Schwartz offers a new reading that challenges the conventional view of these novels as portraying a clear-cut struggle between a pre-modern cosmology and the modern scientific paradigm that supplanted it.

Schwartz situates Lewis's work in the context of modern intellectual, cultural, and political history. He shows that Lewis does not simply dismiss the modern "evolutionary model," but discriminates carefully among different kinds of evolutionary theory-"mechanistic" in Out of the Silent Planet, "vitalist" in Perelandra, and "spiritual" in That Hideous Strength-and their distinctive views of human nature, society, and religious belief. Schwartz also shows that in each book the conflict between Christian and "developmental" viewpoints is far more complex than is generally assumed. In line with the Augustinian understanding that "bad things are good things perverted," Lewis constructs each of his three "beatific" communities-the "unfallen" worlds on Mars and Venus and the terrestrial remnant at St. Anne's-not as the sheer antithesis but rather as the transfiguration or "raising up" of the particular evolutionary doctrine that is targeted in the novel. In this respect, Lewis is more deeply engaged with the main currents of modern thought than his own self-styled image as an intellectual "dinosaur" might lead us to believe. He is also far more prepared to explore the possibilities for reshaping the evolutionary model in a manner that is simultaneously compatible with traditional Christian doctrine and committed to addressing the distinctive concerns of modern existence.

C.S. Lewis on the Final Frontier highlights the enduring relevance of Lewis's fiction to contemporary concerns on a wide variety of issues, including the ethical problems surrounding bio-technology and the battle between religious and naturalistic worldviews in the twenty-first century. Far from offering a black and white contrast between an old-fashioned Christian humanism and a newfangled heresy, the Space Trilogy should be seen as a modern religious apologist's searching effort to enrich the former through critical engagement with the latter.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sanford Schwartz has written what is certainly the best book yet on Lewis's science fiction. Schwartz is a major scholar of modernism, and his unique contribution here is to demonstrate that Lewis's fiction is not a flight from but a considered and serious response to the conditions of modernity. This book shines a new, unexpected, and instructive light on the Space Trilogy."
—Alan Jacobs, Professor of English, Wheaton College and author of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C.S. Lewis

"Schwartz demonstrates that the novels of Lewis's Space Trilogy contain a subtle and imaginative defense of Christian humanism-a defense that is perhaps as timely today as it was in Lewis's time. This book should be on the shelf of everyone who wants to read Lewis well."
—David L. O'Hara, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Augustana College, and author of Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C.S. Lewis

"Sanford Schwartz has given us a seminal study of Lewis's Space Trilogy. Setting Lewis's work against its early twentieth-century cultural and intellectual background, Schwartz provides a fresh and insightful elucidation of the books' sophisticated structures and themes and their continued relevance in the twenty-first century."
—Peter J. Schakel, author of Imagination and the Arts in C. S. Lewis and The Way into Narnia

"A fine example of how to do literary criticism and do it well...all Christian scholars of literature will be cheered by this example of solid critical work...all academic libraries should purchase this very fine book." —Catholic Library World

"We always knew that Lewis was a subtle chess master of the mind; Schwartz' careful annotation of his point and counterpoint reveals just how densely packed these textual fugues really are. And, of course, positioning Lewis as a thoroughly modern man helps in the ongoing campaign of relevance. In order to apply his imaginative apologetics to each passing decade, one useful method is to pull Lewis out of the Middle Ages and Renaissance into today. And Schwartz has certainly done that."—Sehnsucht

"While Schwartz's book should be required reading for anyone interested in C.S. Lewis's thought, its real contribution is introducing Lewis, in his full complexity, to scholars of philosophy and religious thought." —Journal of Religion

Library Journal

Schwartz (literature, Penn State Univ.; The Matrix of Modernism: Pound, Eliot, and Early Twentieth-Century Thought) examines each work in C.S. Lewis's "Space Trilogy" to not only discover similarities in structure but also to posit the development of Lewis's response to the evolution of modern thought. In Schwartz's view, the first work, Out of the Silent Planet(1938), confronts orthodox Darwinism as expressed in the writings of H.G. Wells. In Perelandra(1943), he argues, Lewis challenges the theory of creative evolution as expressed in the writings of Henri Bergson. The third work, That Hideous Strength(1945), employs the gothic element from the novels of Charles Williams to reaffirm Christian humanism in the modern world. In addition to his analysis of each work as a progression of Lewis's thought, Schwartz offers some frank commentary on an unfinished manuscript, The Dark Tower, published posthumously in 1977. He also offers an extensive section of notes, and the bibliography is substantial. VERDICT Schwartz assumes that his readers have a thorough familiarity with the trilogy as well as with the philosophical underpinnings of modern intellectual discourse. Lewis scholars, not casual fans, will best appreciate this work.—Anthony Pucci, Notre Dame H.S., Elmira, NY


—Anthony Pucci
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195374728
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/1/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Sanford Schwartz teaches literature at Penn State University and is the author of The Matrix of Modernism: Pound, Eliot, and Early Twentieth-Century Thought.

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