Brief Reviews, Volume 9

Wesley Kort – Reading C.S. Lewis [Review]

[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”250″ identifier=”0190221348″ locale=”US” src=”https://englewoodreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/41D3wSTH2ZL.jpg” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”165″]Going Deeper with C.S. Lewis’ Books
 
A Review of 

Reading C. S. Lewis: A Commentary
Wesley Kort

Hardback: Oxford U.Press, 2015
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Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
 
 
Many people have extremely positive or negative feelings regarding C.S. Lewis. Wesley A. Kort attempts to take a middle ground in his work Reading C.S. Lewis: A Commentary.  Dr. Kort, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Duke University, emphasizes multiple times throughout the work that he is “neither a devotee nor a detractor” (vii) and indicates his study of Lewis arose from students requesting a class on Lewis.  For this reason before embarking on a journey through this book, it is imperative that readers actually read the preface and other front matter rather than turning immediately to the first chapter.  Doing so prepares the reader for Dr. Kort’s attempted objective attitude and the approach he takes to Lewis.

Reading C. S. Lewis is divided into three parts.  Each part provides a chapter long commentary on four individual books or pairs of books followed by a concluding chapter which summarizes Kort’s thoughts on these selected works and Lewis’s development of various ideas in these works. Reading C. S. Lewis is not an exhaustive treatment of each work nor does it include all of Lewis’ writings. Kort includes Surprised By Joy, The Problem of Pain, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, the Out of the Silent Planet trilogy, The Abolition of Man, four of the Chronicles of Narnia, and The Four Loves. Each chapter length commentary is arranged in a consistent format which includes an introduction to the work followed by a four point commentary. These commentaries are predominantly thematically based rather than a linear walk through the text. A final concluding chapter at the end of Reading C. S. Lewis pulls together ideas from all of the books Kort includes.

Kort’s commentary focuses on theological and philosophical ideas in Lewis’ work and demonstrates how Lewis changed or adapted his views throughout his life and writing. Kort seems to enjoy pointing out where Lewis’ theological viewpoints differ from those of his largely evangelical readers today.  He also enjoys demonstrating where Lewis utilizes characterizations that can be seen as prejudicial, judgmental, and sexist when read through a contemporary lens. However, in spite of these “failings” as Kort describes them, he also states “there is much in Lewis that should be taken seriously” (250).

Reading C. S. Lewis: A Commentary is not an easy text to read. However, it is a useful addition to Lewis studies and is recommended to be read alongside Lewis’ works. Many readers will be challenged in their views of Lewis and his works through this book. Readers will more than likely run to locate their copies of the original texts to be read again with heightened awareness. Reading C.S. Lewis may also serve as a useful textbook or recommended reading for courses on C. S. Lewis.

 



C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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