An Experiment in Criticism / Edition 1by C. S. Lewis
Pub. Date: 04/30/2012
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Why do we read literature and how do we judge it? C. S. Lewis's classic An Experiment in Criticism springs from the conviction that literature exists for the joy of the reader and that books should be judged by the kind of reading they invite. He argues that 'good reading', like moral action or religious experience, involves surrender to the work in hand and a process of entering fully into the opinions of others: 'in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself'. Crucial to his notion of judging literature is a commitment to laying aside expectations and values extraneous to the work, in order to approach it with an open mind. Amid the complex welter of current critical theories, C. S. Lewis's wisdom is valuably down-to-earth, refreshing and stimulating in the questions it raises about the experience of reading.
Table of Contents1. The few and the many; 2. False characterisations; 3. How the few and the many use pictures and music; 4. The reading of the unliterary; 5. On myth; 6. The meanings of fantasy; 7. On realisms; 8. On misreading by the literary; 9. Survey; 10. Poetry; 11. The experiment; Epilogue; Appendix.
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If you can read through his occasional old-fashioned biases on class and gender, dated even for 1961 when this was first published, this is a wonderful little guide on how to read. Exploring the differences between mundane everyday reading and reading with a capital R; the reading of great literature, Lewis also includes chapters on poetry, myth and fantasy. He provides one of the most compelling reasons ever offered for why we read at the end of this little gem of a book: "But in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself......I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do."