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The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto Classics) Paperback – 29 Mar 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (29 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521734320
  • ISBN-13: 978-1107604704
  • ASIN: 1107604702
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.3 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

Review

' erudite and graceful, filled with anecdote and analogy, illuminating the images of the past.' Los Angeles Times

Book Description

Paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, providing the historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. This, Lewis's last book, has been hailed as 'the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind'.


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Format: Paperback
CS Lewis is best known for his "Chronicles of Narnia" and his books of Christian apologetics, such as: "Mere Christianity" and "The Screwtape Letters". However, he was also an academic: a fellow and tutor of Magdalen College, Oxford, and professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University. This is his last academic book, published the year after he died.

Lewis here outlines (what we would call) the Medieval Geocentric Cosmology and Natural History (especially Human Nature). This is very different from our modern scientific theories of Cosmology and Biology. Lewis' point is that, if we do not understand the worldview of medieval writers, we cannot fully understand their writings.

Two points made by Lewis are worth noting. It is sometimes thought by moderns that the medieval universe was small and closed in. In fact the Earth was, by cosmic standards, a point; it had no measurable size. The Sun and stars were known to be larger than the Earth. The stars were known to be far more than a hundred million miles away. (This is small by modern standards, the Sun being about 93 million miles distant, but can any of us claim that we truly appreciate the difference between a hundred million miles and the six million million miles of a Light Year?)

A second point is that it is often claimed that when Copernicus put the Sun rather than the Earth at the centre of the Universe, this was a demotion for the Earth. The Medievals believed that the Heavens were the place of purity, made of Quintessence, a fifth element not found on Earth. The Earth itself was the "offscourings" of the Universe, the dregs, the "cosmic dust-bin" (p 63).
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Format: Paperback
This is one of Lewis's more difficult-to-find academic works. However, if you find it and read it, you will not be disappointed. I read the book on my own initiative while taking a master's class in Medieval literature. I probably learned as much from his book as I did from the whole class, and it opened up countless delightful possibilities for future enquiry. It also gave me a great idea for my final paper, which I'd been lacking the inspiration to write.
What's more, this work is still respected in academia. Recently I was reading a Cambridge thesis on the subject of early printing (The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein) and came across a quote from _The Discarded Image_ (an uncited quote, which was annoying, but that's another story). Eisenstein quotes most authors in order to disagree with them, but she didn't disagree with Lewis (added to him, qualified him, but didn't disagree), which was unusual. Lewis was one of the few authors in her field that Eisenstein did not attack! I also passed _The Discarded Image_ along to one of my previous college professors and he decided to include ideas from it in his Survey of English Literature course.
If you want to know how medieval men and women saw their world - their belief in supernatural beings intermediate between angels and devils, their admiration for all kinds of organization, their heavy reliance on the snippet of Plato to which they had access-read this book. You will never see the Middle Ages quite the same way again.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've recently finished the McGrath Biography of C.S. Lewis, and ordered several books to read/re-read: I have to agree with the 'blurb' writer: this is the best book he wrote. In it, he wears his huge learning lightly, distilling his knowledge and wisdom into crystal-clear drops. Having read it the once, I shall soon have to read it again - for information, for understanding, and for delight.
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