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Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis [Hardcover]

Michael Ward
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
Price: 16.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 Mar 2008
), Ward shows that the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets—the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn—planets which Lewis described as "spiritual symbols of permanent value" and "especially worthwhile in our own generation." Using these seven symbols, Lewis secretly constructed the

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; First Edition edition (3 Mar 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195313879
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195313871
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16.5 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 37,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

"Michael Ward has established himself not only as the foremost living Lewis scholar, but also as a brilliant writer" (The Times Literary Supplement). Dr Ward is Senior Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall in the University of Oxford and Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, Texas. On the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis's death, Ward unveiled a memorial to him in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. Ward read English at Oxford, Theology at Cambridge, and has a PhD in Divinity from St Andrews. He lectures widely on theology and imagination, and presented the BBC television documentary, 'The Narnia Code'. He handed a pair of X-ray spectacles to Pierce Brosnan in the James Bond film, 'The World Is Not Enough'. More details about Dr Ward at www.michaelward.net and www.planetnarnia.com. Author photo copyright: www.lanciaesmith.com.

Product Description

Review

so that the story-line in each book, countless points of ornamental detail, and, most important, the portrayal of the Christ-figure of Aslan, all serve to communicate the governing planetary personality.

Over the years, scholars have labored to show that C. S. Lewis's famed Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying symbolic coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser's Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the nature of Narnia's symbolism has remained a puzzle.

Michael Ward has finally solved the mystery. In Planet Narnia, he argues convincingly that medieval cosmology, a subject which fascinated Lewis throughout his life, provides the imaginative key to the seven novels. Drawing on the whole range of Lewis's writings (including previously unpublished drafts of the Chronicles), Ward shows that the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets - the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn - planets which Lewis described as "spiritual symbols of permanent value" and "especially worthwhile in our own generation." Using these seven symbols, Lewis secretly constructed the Chronicles so that the story-line in each book, countless points of ornamental detail, and, most important, the portrayal of the Christ-figure of Aslan, all serve to communicate the governing planetary personality. For instance, in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader," the sun is the prevailing planetary spirit: magical water turns things to gold, the solar metal; Aslan is seen flying in a sunbeam; and the sun's rising place is actually identified as the destination of the plot: "the very eastern end of the world."

Planet Narnia is a ground-breaking study that will provoke a major reassessment not only of the Chronicles, but of Lewis's whole literary and theological outlook, revealing him to be a much subtler writer and thinker than has previously been recognized.

...remarkable thesis... (Tom Wright, Times Literary Supplement)

Michael Ward has written a book whose 'donegality' is the medieval scholarship, the poetic craftsmanship, the philosophical acumen and the imaginative genius of the self-conciously Jovial Lewis himself. (Tom Wright, Times Literary Supplement)

'Planet Narnia' is a valuable and excellently argued contribution to our understanding and enjoyment of the Nariad.

About the Author

Michael Ward is Senior Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford, and Professor of Apologetics at Houston Baptist University, Texas.  His website is michaelward.net


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
186 of 188 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I continue to be astonished by the sheer depth and breadth of research, investigation and knowledge exhibited by those who are passionate about the writings of C.S. Lewis; even those who are not professional academics or theologians go to tremendous lengths to understand and relate small details of Lewis's life and the background to his writings. Michael Ward's book goes far beyond this; he moves easily across the whole breadth of Lewis's own writings, the literature with which Lewis was familiar (which is to say, most of the literature of Western civilisation), and the subsequent critical and biographical writings about Lewis and his works. I'm not qualified to judge the correctness of his central thesis - that the Chronicles of Narnia are themed on the seven planets of the medieval cosmology. But whether Ward is right about this or not, he has certainly produced a work that achieves something else of great importance; he illustrates again, and powerfully, in detail, the fundamental unity of the whole of Lewis's works, arising from the consistency of Lewis's thought and understanding of the nature of things. He answers some of the more well-known criticisms of recent biographers and commentators (specifically, A.N. Wilson and Philip Pullman). Although (and rightly) a scholarly book, which will best be appreciated by those who have some exposure to the same literature as Lewis or are prepared to go and look up references which they don't recognise, nevertheless this book can be read simply as an enlightening and enjoyable sketch of Lewis's major imaginative works - Narnia, the Cosmic Trilogy, some of his poetry. Highly recommended.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harmony of the spheres 6 May 2009
By AndrewL94 VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of C.S. Lewis since reading the Narnia books at the tender age of 10. When you like an author, you are keen to get your hands on more of his works. Not only did I discover a terrific sequence of science fiction books (the so-called cosmic trilogy), but I was surprised to discover that Lewis was both a Christian apologist and a very highly regarded medieval scholar (I would love to have been present at one of his Oxford lectures which have assumed legendary status).

There is something about the Narnia books, a mystical and poetical element which takes me back to them again and again. A similar atmosphere informs "The Lord of the rings" but is completely absent from the ubiquitous Harry Potter, whatever other qualities he may possess.

Michael Ward takes the credit for discovering a crucial and hitherto unguessed link between the seven Narnia novels and the seven "planets" of medieval cosmology (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, the Sun and the Moon). Incidentally these seven heavenly bodies correspond to the seven days of the week. As soon as he gets started on his exegesis, you realise he is on to a winner. By Chapter 3 I was convinced beyond doubt that Lewis did indeed base these works on his beloved astrological scheme - and deliberately concealed this fact from his readers.

This is not an easy book to read. In discussing Lewis's theology, Ward takes us into some fascinating and obscure backwaters of philosophy. I must admit he left me behind on a number of occasions. Here are some of the words scattered through the text - alterity, anaphora, chthonic, Eutychian, hesychastic, ichneutic, monophysite, oppugnancy, parousia, polysemy. If you understand these words, you will have no problem!

Despite his somewhat dense prose style, full credit must go to Michael Ward for an important discovery about these much-loved stories.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for fans of C S Lewis 17 May 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis
Anyone who is a fan of C S Lewis and the Narnia stories will find this a fascinating books as Michael Ward argues that for each book Lewis had a particular planet in mind and that through that imagery he presented different aspects of Christ. This is the reworking of a doctoral thesis and whilst some may be offput by the technical details, others will revel in the detailed endnotes.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Digging deeper in Narnia and Perelandra 30 Jun 2009
Format:Hardcover
Michael Ward is an Anglican minister who has caused a lot of excitement among his fellow academics and others by his claim to have 'found the key'to C S Lewis' fiction writings. The books he has in mind are the Narnia Chronicles (which he calls 'the Narniad' and the Ransom Trilogy of science fiction books. Many have enjoyed Lewis' works without ever concerning themselves with the search for a 'key' but academics have frequently criticised Lewis for the 'hotch potch' of conflicting ideas and the lack of apparent order in the Narniad in particular. Even friends of Lewis criticised his entry into 'children's fiction' and thought that, as a writer, he had missed his mark.

Michael Ward suggests, in what was original a doctoral thesis, that there are unspoken themes to Lewis' works of fiction. Others have also made this claim and suggested various linking themes but none have received wide support as Ward. Lewis was known to be 'a man who liked his secrets' and Ward claims that this is why they were hidden for so long.

Lewis' chosen field of expertise was medieval literature and Ward claims that Lewis has used a medieval philosophical framework for this fiction even though the apparent stories are set in a fairy-tale world or in interplanetary space. Lewis has used the medieval mind-set to create a subliminal mood or atmosphere that was, in a sense the real story, and which was more important than any of the apparent allegorical details. Lewis, says Ward, was creating an atmosphere which in its overall effect cannot be examined too closely without losing its essence. The 'hidden key' to these subliminal moods is the medieval concept of the seven kingdom of the seven planets.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Book
Purchased as a gift for my wife - I have nothing more to say about it so why should I?
Published 7 months ago by Dr. Raymond L. Kahn
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I bought this for my husband as he was interested in reading this book. Not sure if he ever finished it.
Published 10 months ago by Geordie Gina
5.0 out of 5 stars The cosmic-planetary unifying analysis of "Narnia" surveys all of C.S....
I first read "The Screwtape Letters" as a teenager, in the mid-1960s, and then "Out of the Silent Planet", and then some of the "Narnia" stories. Read more
Published 14 months ago by John Gough
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book
This book is not easy but will be fascinating for Narnia fans. I would suggest re-reading the 7 books of the Narniad before embarking on it. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Catherine
5.0 out of 5 stars Narnian insights
For those of us who grew up on CS Lewis, lived for a time in Narnia or spent exciting hours opening and closing other people's wardrobes hoping for rapid temperature changes, this... Read more
Published on 2 Aug 2011 by RR Waller
5.0 out of 5 stars "'The natural speech of the soul'"
Learned critics have already called Michael Ward "the foremost living Lewis scholar...a brilliant writer", described this book as "a compelling case... Read more
Published on 4 April 2011 by Peggy Kay
5.0 out of 5 stars Planet Lewis
The book's main thesis is the suggestion that the Narnian tales were not only informed by but consciously constructed around the medieval and renaissance astrology that played such... Read more
Published on 1 Jan 2011 by E. Prestwich
1.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to the Ivory Tower
I hadn't read any of the Narnia novels before I saw a BBC documentary about Michael Ward and his new literary theory. Read more
Published on 9 Nov 2010 by Rusty
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellously obvious
Every now and then you read something that just feels right. This is it for me. As a lifelong fan of those seemingly innocent children's books, Michael Ward's exhaustive and... Read more
Published on 20 July 2010 by Joe 90
3.0 out of 5 stars Dangerous waters for any CS Lewis reader...
I would have thought that literary criticism of CS Lewis very dangerous waters given his own comprehensive demolishing of even the best criticism in "Fern Seed and Elephants. Read more
Published on 21 Jan 2010 by Mr. Jason D. Ward
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