C. S. Lewis,  Show Notes

Episode 20: An Experiment in Criticism, Ch. 1-4

This week kicks off our fall series, “How to Read a Novel”, starting with C. S. Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism. Next, we will dive into Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, applying the principles we have learned as we read.

Angelina and Cindy discuss Lewis’ approach to literature and the point of this book being a critique more of readers than of books. Some main ideas they bring out of the first chapter are the importance of rereading, the fact that real readers will carve out time for books, how books have the power to change us, and the way readers can’t help but talk about books. Cindy highlights the connection between Lewis critique of the literati and Mr. Bons in “The Celestial Omnibus.” Angelina talks about the challenge of keeping the love of literature for those whose profession it is to teach it, especially in the modern American university culture.

Our hosts discuss the idea of reading to improve oneself as opposed to submitting to the experience of reading a challenging book. Angelina makes the point that it is about motive and whether or not you are trying to control the outcome. The benefits are the byproducts. From chapter 3, Angelina and Cindy contemplate how we approach art and the need to get ourselves out of the way so that we can enter the work of art. Finally, they cover the five characteristics of the unliterary reader according to Lewis.

Listen to The Literary Life:

The Man He Killed

by Thomas Hardy

“Had he and I but met
            By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
            Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
            And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
            And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because —
            Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
            That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
            Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
            No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
            You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
            Or help to half-a-crown.”

Book List:

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett

Paradise Lost by John Milton

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Phantastes by George MacDonald

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

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One Comment

  • Jennifer Dages

    Reading An Experiment in Criticism because of this podcast. So I am partway through and excited to start listening to the episodes on this book. I probably would not have read it otherwise.
    And Cindy I am going to reread Kristin Lavrensdatter this year for the first time in 30 years. Looking forward to it. I think it will be a very different experience b/c of my different position in life.

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