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Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the…
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Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (2008)

by Michael Ward

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
A serious discussion of the Narnia and Perelandria novels in the light of the medieval literature that Lewis was involved with. Sometimes tedious, but full of useful cross references to the cosmology of the Seven planets known to the medieval mind. There is no hard science here, but a good deal of philosophy and reference checking. Only for the serious student, but not a bad example of its genre. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Mar 27, 2018 |
One of the most eye-opening books I have ever read. At a dark point in my child-hood the Chronicles became my place of refuge, and my love of those books has shaped much of my life since then. Its amazing for me to read this book now and see part of how that happened...
  bohannon | Mar 24, 2018 |
I found this very illuminating. The Chronicles were some of my favourite books as a child and although I was aware of their Christian interpretation, Ward's book brings a whole new level of meaning to them. And it all fits. His argument that each novel represents one of the planets of the mediaeval cosmos is well researched and convincingly argued. He doesn't stop at simply examining the Narniad either, but traces the planetary influence in Lewis's other works, his poetry and apologetics as well as the Ransom Trilogy.

Coming at it from an atheistic point of view I can still have some sympathy with Lewis's contention that, post Copernicus, the Universe was reduced to a mere mechanism, thus stripping it of its ancient wonder as the home of the Gods. As Lewis states, a mediaeval person looking up at the stars had a very different view and understanding of the Heavens than we do today. I can't help thinking that we lost something along the way.

A scholarly yet readable book which I feel is the definitive statement on the reasons behind Lewis's sudden detour into children's literature. Recommended. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
This is a mind-blowing book on several levels. It proposes that there is a unifying key to the Narnia septet: that they are each influenced by one of the mediaeval 'planets': Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Luna and Sol (the latter two being respectively the moon and sun).

The author is an academic who has devoted decades to the study of CS Lewis, and his arguments are persuasive. Having said that, they are perhaps too extensive for my tastes, full of detailed references and quotations, some of which went a little over my head. I found that I could not read more than about ten or twelve pages at a time without taking a break, so it has taken me a couple of weeks to finish this book, which isn't a bad thing since it enabled me to ponder the theories in some depth in the meantime.

I believed fairly quickly in the overall argument. Ward coins the useful term 'donegality' to refer to the essence of each book; the overall 'big picture' feel of it which, he claims, is influenced by one of the seven planetary archetypes. Thinking about the Narnia books, I could immediately sense the planetary influence as suggested by Ward in three of them, and was easily convinced by his arguments about another two. I am very dubious about the two remaining ones, however, and have written at some length about the theories on a blog post here: http://suesabstractions.blogspot.com/2012/03/on-intuition-narnia-and-little.html

Anyone wishing to get a feel for the theories without reading this tome could check the author's site at http://www.planetnarnia.com/frequently-asked-questions - but for an in-depth understanding, and (in my view) new light on the entire series, I would recommend the book. Just don't expect to read it in one sitting. ( )
1 vote SueinCyprus | Jan 26, 2016 |
Sure, I thought, maybe there's some fuzzy little thread of ancient and medieval cosmology stuff running through the Narnia books. Then I read the first chapters of Ward's book and had the rug ripped out from beneath me. I've been reading the Narnia series since I was a kid, over and over - how can it be that there was a whole other level (another galaxy)of meaning there that I'd missed? But it most certainly is there. - Adam
  stephencrowe | Nov 11, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
This is not a light read. Philosophical, theological and scientific theories litter these pages. Yet Planet Narnia is not simply one for the fans. Lewis had, and has, many enemies. This brilliant study may not persuade them that he was right, but it should convince them of his extraordinary subtlety.
 
But the whole book is so engagingly written, and so illuminating about medieval symbolism in general, that Planet Narnia is worth reading even if all you are going to do is disagree with it. It also does much to redress the balance of contemporary Lewis criticism, which has, for the most part, concentrated with unremitting hostility on Lewis's reactionary beliefs. (Not just his Christianity, but his perceived racism and sexism, which faults you can, if you're in a condemnatory mood, lay at the door of pretty much any author born before 1940.)
 
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To James G. Levine expert in atmospheric chemistry.
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An enquiring mind is likely to find that C. S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia present certain problems.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195313879, Hardcover)

For over half a century, scholars have laboured to show that C. S. Lewis's famed but apparently disorganised Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying symbolic coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser's Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the structure of Narnia's symbolism has remained a mystery.

Michael Ward has finally solved the enigma. In Planet Narnia he demonstrates that medieval cosmology, a subject which fascinated Lewis throughout his life, provides the imaginative key to the seven novels. Drawing on the whole range of Lewis's writings (including previously unpublished drafts of the Chronicles), Ward reveals how the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets - - Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn - - planets which Lewis described as "spiritual symbols of permanent value" and "especially worthwhile in our own generation". Using these seven symbols, Lewis secretly constructed the Chronicles so that in each book the plot-line, the ornamental details, and, most important, the portrayal of the Christ-figure of Aslan, all serve to communicate the governing planetary personality. The cosmological theme of each Chronicle is what Lewis called 'the kappa element in romance', the atmospheric essence of a story, everywhere present but nowhere explicit. The reader inhabits this atmosphere and thus imaginatively gains connaître knowledge of the spiritual character which the tale was created to embody.

Planet Narnia is a ground-breaking study that will provoke a major revaluation not only of the Chronicles, but of Lewis's whole literary and theological outlook. Ward uncovers a much subtler writer and thinker than has previously been recognized, whose central interests were hiddenness, immanence, and knowledge by acquaintance.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:31 -0400)

"For over half a century, scholars have laboured to show that C.S. Lewis's famed but apparently disorganised Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying symbolic coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser's Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the structure of Narnia's symbolism has remained a mystery." "Michael Ward has finally solved the enigma. In Planet Narnia he demonstrates that medieval cosmology, a subject which fascinated Lewis throughout his life, provides the imaginative key to the seven novels. Drawing on the whole range of Lewis's writings (including previously unpublished drafts of the Chronicles), Ward reveals how the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets - Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn - planets which Lewis described as "spiritual symbols of permanent value" and "especially worthwhile in our own generation". Using these seven symbols, Lewis secretly constructed the Chronicles so that in each book the plot-line, the ornamental details, and, most important, the portrayal of the Christ-figure of Aslan, all serve to communicate the governing planetary personality. The cosmological theme of each Chronicle is what Lewis called 'the kappa element in romance', the atmospheric essence of a story, everywhere present but nowhere explicit. The reader inhabits this atmosphere and thus imaginatively gains connaitre knowledge of the spiritual character which the tale was created to embody." "Planet Narnia is a ground-breaking study that will provoke a major revaluation not only of the Chronicles, but of Lewis's whole literary and theological outlook. Ward uncovers a much subtler writer and thinker than has previously been recognized, whose central interests were hiddenness, immanence, and knowledge by acquaintance."--Jacket.… (more)

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