Lewis on Literature

literatureFall break has broken.  It came to an end last night with church, some orange chicken with  steamed rice, laundry, and the final pages of C. S. Lewis’s The Discarded Image.  The book, Lewis’s attempt at writing a “primer” for the medieval and Renaissance worldview, was a fun read, with new (old) concepts about the way the world works all over the place.  At the end, though, you get a nice consideration of literature (particularly in how it was “different” back then).  A standout quote for any point in history:

Literature exists to teach what is useful, to honor what deserves honor, to appreciate what is delightful.  The useful, honorable, and delightful things are superior to it: it exists for their sake; its own use, honor, or delightfulness is derivative from theirs.

Part of me balks at the idea of a utilitarian approach to literature, but I think I understand what Lewis is doing here.  It’s about the master you serve.  Too often, literature has little to do with the honorable and delightful; its only master is the useful (and that, an overly reductionistic usefulness).  A recovery of honor and delight in our approach to literature would be a step in the direction of the good.

(image from gloomwire.com)

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