Book Review: An Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis

Dare I have the temerity to offer a review of a book which struggles with criticism? Some thoughts and implications:

An Experiment in CriticismAn Experiment in Criticism by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this to read along with the Literary Life Podcast. They finished ages ago, but I finished today.

I really think the Epilogue helped me understand the whole better, but I suppose that’s because I read Madeleine L’Engle who talks often of being in kairos which is her way of saying time out of time – herself without knowledge of self. That’s what Lewis is talking about as a reader – and readers have been there. The world stops and you can only read because of that stripping away of the structure and the oughts and the full presence in the story.

It’s Lewis, so it’s hard and intricate. In places he seems to be weaving around trying to find the words to finally say what he wants to say. It is a book I’ll be back to, probably more often than I want to admit. There were some passages that deserve greater contemplation (not for use but for reception).

Charlotte Mason discusses the ways of will and reason and how they go hand-in-hand with accepting an idea and reasoning to it. How we become very replete with ourselves, bogged down in ourselves. It’s the opposite experience of transport into the story that Lewis is discussing. He is saying if we bring only ourselves into the story we can take the ideas of the story and make them do what we want. But if we receive the story, it is free and we are free. As he quotes, “he that loseth his life shall save it.” p 138

Definitely worth the reading … and re-reading to pull the subtleties together. This is a book where the whole defines the parts, but the first time you must take it by parts and the second you may see the parts more clearly because you have the whole.

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