Collect


Collect for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

O Almighty God, who alone makest the hearts of the faithful to be of one will: grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely be there fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end.
Amen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

From a Thirty-Second Century Dissertation on C. S. Lewis

The following material is excerpted from the famous doctoral thesis of the esteemed J. O. Trottelmann, Ph. Dim., Do. L. T., &c. His best-known series of books, published between 3130 and 3160 CE, revolutionized the contemporary understanding of the Inklings; this thesis of 3126 was where that work began. The modern student of his work will doubtless be fascinated by this glimpse into Dr. Trottelmann’s early mind.

Brutus Raca, Doctor of Divinity, St Amyalus College, Cambridge

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The conventional orthodoxy in which we were raised must, alas, be put to rest by serious scholarship. Modern science has made it impossible to believe that a single man like the putative C. S. Lewis, armed only with such primitive technologies as the pen or at most the typewriter, could have completed the multitude of volumes attributed to him; nor could the diversity of styles discernible in the many works written under the ægis of his thought truly proceed all from a single author. Let us, therefore, sweep away the lovely yet in the end only customary reverence for the supposed Inklings, and see what the mastery of a more progressive age can discern beneath the pious fictions of our forebears.

In point of fact, the works attributed to C. S. Lewis can be safely stated to have been written by a minimum of eight discrete authors, whom I shall notate as T, O, C, J, N, A, S, and L. T is the theological source, who articulated the arguments underlying most of the apologetic corpus (though he did not make the final redaction of these works which we possess today). O represents the Oxford source, the work of a literary scholar who sought to aggrandize his work by attaching it to that of the T source. C refers to N. W. Clerk, the name under which A Grief Observed was originally published, before that author similarly availed himself of the greater prestige of Lewis’ name and feigned that his own name was a mere pseudonym. J was the author of Surprised by Joy, who gave an imaginative account of Lewis’ early life, possibly based in part on the testimony of someone who knew the Lewis family. N is the Narnia source, who composed most though not all of the material we know as the Chronicles of Narnia. A, the Aslan source, revised and expanded material inherited from N. S was the main (though not sole) author behind the Space Trilogy. Finally we have L, the Lewis source proper, who collocated and redacted the documents of his seven predecessors, and established them as the work of the supposed Oxford don and Christian apologist.

Whether there was a historical C. S. Lewis is a problem I do not propose to examine much; the multitude of his supposed names (Clive Staples Lewis, Clive Hamilton, N. W. Clerk in some accounts, and the curious mononym Jack) is certainly a mark against the hypothesis, there being no reason for one individual to have so many. But on the other hand, in dividing the Lewisian corpus, I am already so upsetting the conventions of eleven hundred years that I can scarcely afford to embroil myself still further in controversies.

But to return to the thrust of the argument. Sources O, C, and J, I presume to require little argument as not authentically Lewisian. The content, style, and vocabulary of O (to whom I assign the entirety of The Allegory of Love, The Discarded Image, An Experiment in Criticism, A Preface to ‘Paradise Lost,’ and Studies in Words, along with most of the putatively Lewisian half of Arthurian Torso and certain parts of Reflections on the Psalms) are all markedly different from the rest of the corpus, reflecting O’s career as an Oxonian academic, in contrast to the purported career Lewis enjoyed as an apologist and a writer of fiction. (This will require further deconstruction later, naturally.) Likewise, the intimate style, the doubts, the emotional strain, and the mystical resolution evinced by C are in stark contrast to the other works attributed to Lewis, and the fact that C’s work was originally published as the work of one ‘N. W. Clerk’ is yet another indication that its later attribution to Lewis is fallacious. Likewise, while L (and perhaps T) make passing references to the biography of Lewis, only J gives it any shape or content, and is so transparently concerned to give background to the other writings that we can confidently place J as not only a distinct source from the others, but the last to make a major contribution, before L’s redaction of the corpus into a pseudo-cohesive whole.

This leaves us with the theological source, T, and the fictional sources, N, A, and S. I take T to be the mind behind The Abolition of Man, God In the Dock, Letters to Malcolm, Mere Christianity, Miracles, The Problem of Pain, a rudimentary form of Reflections on the Psalms (later edited by the O source), The Screwtape Letters, The Seeing Eye, The Weight of Glory, and—tentatively—The Great Divorce; these display enough shared vocabulary, style, and theological content that they can be safely regarded as the work of a single author. (Dr Clare Kashikoku of Yokohama’s St Paul Miki University, a proponent of the traditional three-source theory, has argued that the Chronicles of Narnia should be added to this list; my reasons for dissenting from her opinion should become clear when I treat of the fictional sources.)

We must dismiss the customary assumption that The Four Loves belongs on this list as well. In terms of technique, it is a Lewisian product of the first order; however, it is so divergent from the other works listed in terms of subject matter, and fails so totally to reflect T’s apologetic concerns, that the idea of its being from the same pen as Mere Christianity is, well—untenable for the serious scholar.

2 comments:

  1. Curious. Almost twenty years ago, when I labelled myself (justifiably, I guess) as a traditionalist-right-wing catholic, I wrote a very similar post -general idea and spirit, if not literary quality- about a "scholar" that dismissed the myth that such works as The Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion and the Hobbit were written by a single man named Tolkien.
    Now, I don't my find this kind of mockery justified or helpful. Now I would rather called it obscurantist - or even trumpist.

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  2. LOL. I see what you did there. Very clever, friend. Very clever.

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