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

by Michael Ward

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4451741,852 (4.41)42
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 Drawing on the whole range of Lewis's writings (including previously unpublished drafts of the Chronicles), Ward reveals how the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets - - Jupiter, Mars,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.… (more)
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» See also 42 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
I found this fascinating and reasonably persuasive. The most interesting bit for me was getting an introduction to medieval cosmology. ( )
  lachlanp | Dec 14, 2020 |
9/10 (excellent): This is the first book of literary criticism I've ever read, never mind enjoyed. Normally, I have little interest in other people's opinions on what another is trying to say. The difference here is that Michael Ward uses C.S. Lewis' own works to demonstrate the hidden medieval theme within the Narnia Chronicles. There's no doubt that he has found the key that fits. That key doesn't change the message within the books, but it does enhance one's enjoyment of them. Planet Narnia can be taxing for those (like me) not used to literary criticism. I'd already had an aborted run at it a few years ago. What helped this time was that (a) In the meantime, I'd read the simplified version, [b:The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens|8690897|The Narnia Code C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens|Michael Ward|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1406509642s/8690897.jpg|13563383]), and (b) I stopped after each chapter to read the actual Narnia book being discussed. I'd certainly recommend that approach to others. ( )
  mark_read | Aug 13, 2020 |
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
  StFrancisofAssisi | Oct 7, 2019 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (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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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.

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