Date of Award

5-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

English

Major Professor

Amy Billone

Committee Members

Nancy Henry, Dawn Coleman, Rosalind Hackett

Abstract

Influence has long been a focus of scholarly work on C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), but this scholarly conversation largely neglects the nineteenth-century. In this project I will establish the profound influence of nineteenth-century texts, authors, and ideas on Lewis’s thought and work, arguing that the Romantic metanarrative—which traces the individual’s progression through innocence, experience, and higher innocence—provides the foundation for Lewis’s self-construction as well as his fictional work.

While the Romantics provide the initial concepts to Lewis, it is Victorian iterations of the Romantic metanarrative that Lewis most heavily revises. In his 2013 biography of Lewis, Alister McGrath suggests that Lewis views the middle ages through “Victorian spectacles” because of his affinity for Victorian Medievalist, William Morris; I propose that these “Victorian spectacles” apply more broadly and influence not only Lewis’s interpretations of past texts, but also his entire worldview—literary, intellectual, spiritual and otherwise. Lewis’s fiction presents Romantic metanarrative as seen through his unique nineteenth-century (re)vision and adapted by his Christian imagination.

The scope of the study will include works from the long nineteenth century—from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience (1795) to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden (1911)—as well as Lewis’s full writings, including his poetry, fiction, prose, diary, letters, autobiography, apologetics, criticism, and marginalia. My chapters will focus on 1) Surprised by Joy as romantic autobiography, 2) Till We Have Faces as neo-Victorian Bildungsroman, 3) Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength as neo-Victorian genre fiction, and 4) The Chronicles of Narnia as a revision of Golden Age children’s literature. In each case, I will demonstrate how the Romantic metanarrative shapes both the original nineteenth-century texts as well as Lewis’s revisions of those texts.

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