Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto Classics) Paperback – 7 Nov 2013
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"Another side of Lewis's witty, lucid intellect is revealed in this 1966 collection, now returned to print. Its 14 papers deal with Spenser, Dante, Malory, Tasso and Milton, and with such other topics as the medieval talent for reworking old books into something fresh and original." The New York Times
'A remarkable intellect turns to the work of Spenser, Dante, Malory, Tasso and Milton. The 14 essays provide insight into medieval life as well as medieval literature.' Philadelphia Inquirer
'This collection of essays ... is an invaluable addition to the library of anyone who, as Lewis did, not only reads, teaches and writes about medieval and Renaissance literature, but loves it.' Cahiers Elisabethians
'Another side of Lewis's witty, lucid intellect is revealed in this 1966 collection, now returned to print. Its 14 papers deal with Spenser, Dante, Malory, Tasso and Milton, and with such other topics as the medieval talent for reworking old books into something fresh and original.' The New York Times
This entertaining and learned volume contains book reviews, lectures and hard-to-find articles from the late C. S. Lewis, whose constant aim was to show the twentieth-century reader how to read and how to understand old books and manuscripts.See all Product Description
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In “The Genesis of the Medieval Book,” Lewis writes of what is commonly written of in literary criticism today – influence. The Brut is indebted to previous works. Lewis addresses the problem of authorship, concluding it cannot be definite in works that are influenced and in a period when originality was not of prime importance. Essays on “Morte Darthur” and “Neoplatonism in the Poetry of Spenser” rely heavily on commentaries by other authors, as these are responses to them. In the essay on Tasso Lewis writes of the change of opinions on the author since he wrote Jerusalem Delivered. The essay adds a little to Lewis’s writing on Italian epics in Allegory of Love.
This comes to the aspect of repetition in the book – it reiterates themes from Lewis’s Discarded Image, what I consider to be the more important book. In Discarded Image Lewis gives a good overview of the paradigm of Medieval England. It is a very good guide to medieval literature, addressing cosmology, theology, philosophy, etc. The Studies are more specialized by the authors included, the close readings, and largely linguistic approach to those author’s works.
The book is more difficult than other Lewis books in that Italian and Latin phrases are not given English translations, though citations are attached.
It consists of fourteen essays, selected and collected by Walter Hooper, who has made it his life's mission to ensure that every thought of Lewis's has found its way between book covers. This is not an entirely bad thing, nor an entirely good thing; it is what it is.
Hooper's selection here, a mere three years after CSL's death, is (by my lights) excellent. There are three general essays on medieval literature; three on Dante; five on Spenser; and one each on Mallory, Tasso, and Milton.
Of these, I found the essays on Dante most congenial and interesing, no doubt because I have read a great deal of Dante. But the second most interesting to me were the large selection on Spenser, and I have read no Spenser at all - a lack which I now see that I must, sooner or later, rectify.
The essays on Mallory and Milton are essentially textual criticism, and a bit dull. The essays on medieval literature are quite enlightening, though, as Hooper points out, the third is almost unnecessary if one has read "The Discarded Image." And the essay on Tasso is interesting, but not enough to make me seek out a copy of his work.
So if, as I have said before, the purpose of good criticism is to give us new insight and possibly send us back to the original works - then, Mr. Lewis, mission largely accomplished.