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

Sanford Schwartz

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Book Description

16 July 2009
C.S. Lewis's space trilogy - Out of the Silent Planet (1938), Perelandra (1943), That Hideous Strength (1945) - has been both admired and dismissed for its staging of a sharply defined struggle between religious and naturalistic points of view. Proceeding from Mars and Venus to a final showdown on our own planet, each installment takes up another facet of the seemingly impassable conflict between Christianity and the tendencies of modern thought that arose in the wake of the Darwinian revolution in biology. In Out of the Silent Planet, the target is evolutionary naturalism, primarily as it appears in the science fiction of H.G. Wells. In Perelandra, it is the alluring but perilous doctrine of "creative" evolution inaugurated by Henri Bergson. In That Hideous Strength, Lewis depicts an insidious organization - the National Institute of Coordinated Experiments - whose friendly acronym, NICE, belies its pursuit of a eugenically inspired program to assume control over the evolutionary process and thereby achieve everlasting dominion over the planet. Taken together, these seemingly clear-cut confrontations between Christian tradition and modern apostasy reinforce the image of Lewis as the voice of an endangered heritage, a self-styled "dinosaur" waging spiritual warfare against the corruption and confusions of his age. Sanford Schwartz here offers a new reading of the trilogy that challenges the prevailing view of Lewis, shared by advocates and adversaries alike, as champion of the "discarded image" of premodern cosmology. Through his close reading of Lewis's work, Schwartz is able to discern the outlines of a Lewis who is far more deeply engaged with modern developments in science and philosophy, and more prepared to explore the possibilities for transforming these developments in ways that are not only compatible with traditional Christian doctrine but also speak to the distinctive problems of the modern condition. Unlike the Chronicles of Narnia, the Trilogy has received little scholarly attention. Schwartz's study fills a major gap in the literature and will appeal to a wide range of scholars and students as well as to Lewis's many devoted fans.

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Prof. Schwartz conducts a thorough dissection of the three novels, tracing their themes through Lewis's life, his reading, friends and interests, presenting us with a better understanding of this complex, passionate scholar. Schwartz writes with great clarity... a pleasure to read. (Bob Rickard, Fortean Times)

About 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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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent study of the Space Trilogy 14 April 2010
By Everhopeful - Published on Amazon.com
The review of April 11, 2010, mischaracterizes Schwartz's fine book. It is not a "commentary," which indicates a verse-by-verse explanation of particular points in a text, but rather a work of scholarship that argues a unified thesis about the literary structure and themes of C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy. The book is intelligent, even erudite, but at the same time it is clearly written and accessible to the non-specialist. I'm a university professor who teaches a course on C. S. Lewis, and I would recommend this book highly to my undergraduate students who want a first-rate treatment of the trilogy.
4 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably helpful but.... 11 April 2010
By Julie A. Malecki - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
When I purchased this I thought it included these fabulous books. A commentary to reference while reading them would have been helpful. I was so very disappointed that it was only the commentary that I paid $15.00 for. I recently got my Kindle and was very much looking forward to reading these books with a dictionary on hand! Somewhere, packed away in a box because I have limited storage space, are my copies of this Trilogy. I have very fond memories of reading these books so I wanted to read them again with tools on hand to gain more understanding.(I LOVE MY KINDLE!!!) Alas, the books were not included and not yet available on the Kindle. Big, very disappointed sigh...
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