C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Much has been written about this interesting man, however I have chosen a simple, straightforward essay, written by Emilie Griffin, as an introduction to his life and work. Following this essay are additional notes about his personal life, his conversion experience, and his writing.
Read the C S Lewis Biographical essay here.
Perelandra (Voyage to Venus)
(Most notes/ideas from The C. S. Lewis Encyclopedia, Crossway Books)
Written during the dark hours immediately before and during the Second World War, C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, of which Perelandra is the second volume, stands alongside such works as Albert Camus’s The Plague and George Orwell’s 1984 as a timely parable that has become timeless, beloved by succeeding generations as much for the sheer wonder of its storytelling as for the significance of the moral concerns.
For the trilogy’s central figure, C. S. Lewis created perhaps the most memorable character of his career, the brilliant, clear-eyed, and fiercely brave philologist Dr. Elwin Ransom. Appropriately, Lewis modeled Dr. Ransom after his dear friend J. R. R. Tolkien, for in the scope of its imaginative achievement and the totality of its vision of not one but two imaginary worlds, the Space Trilogy is rivaled in this century only by Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Readers who fall in love with Lewis’s fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia as children unfailingly cherish his Space Trilogy as adults; it, too, brings to life strange and magical realms in which epic battles are fought between the forces of light and those of darkness. But in the many layers of its allegory, and the sophistication and piercing brilliance of its insights into the human condition, it occupies a place among the English language’s most extraordinary works for any age, and for all time.
The second book in C. S. Lewis’ acclaimed Space Trilogy, which also includes Out of the Silent Planet and That Hideous Strength, Perelandra continues the adventures of the extraordinary Dr. Ransom. Pitted against the most destructive of human weaknesses, temptation, the great man must battle evil on a new planet–Perelandra–when it is invaded by a dark force. Will Perelandra succumb to this malevolent being, who strives to create a new world order and who must destroy an old and beautiful civilization to do so? Or will it throw off the yoke of corruption and achieve a spiritual perfection as yet unknown to man? The outcome of Dr. Ransom’s mighty struggle, alone, will determine the fate of this peace-loving planet.
Since we have not read the first book in the Space Trilogy, Out of the Silent Planet, here is a note about one of the recurring characters–Edward Rolles Weston: Weston is a scientist who represents all that C. S. Lewis dislikes about the modern world. Weston embodies the destruction of universal human values as set out in Lewis’ book The Abolition of Man. Weston represents scientism, the idolatry of science, as opposed to true science, of which Lewis approved. With Weston, science becomes totalitarian as a means of guaranteeing the survival of mankind.
In the first story, Weston has invented a spacecraft capable of reaching Mars (Malacandra). He and fellow conspirator, Devine, kidnap Dr. Elwin Ransom in a plan to find a human sacrifice for the rulers of Malacandra. In Perelandra, watch as C.S. Lewis crafts an unlikely Quest Hero in the character of Ransom.
Quotations and Allusions in Perelandra
Since C. S. Lewis spent his life studying and teaching medieval and Renaissance literature, his mind was filled with many things that you and I may never have heard of (or barely heard of). It would be natural for him to include references to important people, places, ideas, historical events, and other pieces of (and characters in) classical literature in everything that he wrote. It is possible to understand the story without referencing these allusions, or understanding them. However, because they add additional layers of meaning and depth to the story, you may want to look some of them up as you are reading. I ran across this very detailed list of Quotations and Allusions in Perelandra online, and have copied it in the Online Library in Eagle Hall, giving credit to the scholar who put it together. It will perhaps be easier to access if you print it and keep it in your English notebook for reference.
Definition of Allusion: An allusion is a reference to a person, a place, an event, or a literary work that a writer expects the reader to recognize and respond to. An allusion may be drawn from history, geography, literature, or religion. For example: In Act One of Macbeth, Ross praises Macbeth’s valor and skill in battle by referring to him as “Bellona’s bridegroom.” In Roman mythology Bellona was the goddess of war.
I read a quote somewhere years ago that said, “Allusions are for educated people.” And I believe this is true. You can be intelligent, gifted, wise, capable … but if you are not well-read, you will not easily recognize allusions, or the significance of allusions. So it is a lifelong process, this becoming an educated person. The more you read, the more of these you will recognize and be able to relate to.
THE PERELANDRA ESSAY:
Take time to read through the essay lesson Writing the Perelandra Essay, as we begin the novel. There is a list of topic options at the end of the Lecture Notes. It is a good idea to choose a topic that interests you early in your reading of the novel, so that you can jot down notes, pages with quotes, etc. that you might use in your essay. This PERELANDRA ESSAY will serve as the FINAL EXAM for the class.