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An Experiment in Criticism (Canto) [Paperback]

By C. S. Lewis (Author)
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Item Number 156730  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   152
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.5" Width: 5.54" Height: 0.3"
Weight:   0.51 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 31, 1992
Publisher   Cambridge University Press
ISBN  0521422817  
EAN  9780521422819  

Availability  0 units.

Canto Book - Full Series Preview
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Item Description...
Why do we read books and how can we judge them? Lewis calls for empathic interaction with other minds to understand their viewpoints. "He is at one and the same time provocative, tactful, biased, open-minded, old-fashioned, far-seeing, very annoying, and very wise,"---Church Times. 142 pages, softcover. Cambridge University.

Publishers Description
Why do we read literature and how do we judge it? C. S. Lewis's classic An Experiment in Criticism springs from the conviction that literature exists for the joy of the reader and that books should be judged by the kind of reading they invite. He argues that 'good reading', like moral action or religious experience, involves surrender to the work in hand and a process of entering fully into the opinions of others: 'in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself'. Crucial to his notion of judging literature is a commitment to laying aside expectations and values extraneous to the work, in order to approach it with an open mind. Amid the complex welter of current critical theories, C. S. Lewis's wisdom is valuably down-to-earth, refreshing and stimulating in the questions it raises about the experience of reading.

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More About C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis Clive Staples Lewis, born in Belfast, Ireland, in 1898, was for more than thirty years Fellow and Tutor of Magdalen College, Oxford, and at the time of his death in 1963 was professor of medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University. His many books -- of fiction, poetry, theology, literary scholarship, and autobiography -- include The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, Miracles, and the seven volumes that comprise The Chronicles of Narnia.

C. S. Lewis was born in 1898 and died in 1963.

C. S. Lewis has published or released items in the following series...
  1. C.S. Lewis Signature Classics
  2. Canto
  3. Canto Classics
  4. Chronicles of Narnia
  5. Chronicles of Narnia (HarperCollins Hardcover)
  6. Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis
  7. Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis No. 13
  8. Cosimo Classics Literature
  9. Harvest Book
  10. Harvest Book
  11. Harvest/HBJ Book
  12. HBJ Modern Classic
  13. Literature Units
  14. Minnesota Voices Project (Paperback)
  15. Radio Theatre
  16. Scribner Classics
  17. Shepherd's Notes
  18. Space Trilogy (Paperback)

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1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Authors, A-Z > ( L ) > Lewis, C.S.   [61  similar products]
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3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Criticism & Theory > General   [12596  similar products]
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
First things first  Jan 26, 2007
Being an admirer of C.S. Lewis, I have often wondered what it is about his writing that I find so appealing. Many times I have had the experience of reading an especially good passage from another author and thinking to myself "that sounds like something Lewis would have written." Notice that I used the word "sound". Lewis doesn't simply convey information; he, like any good writer, writes with liquid words. And this book ("An Experiment in Criticism") is no different. The main point of the book, as many other reviewers have stated, is that readers should "receive" books instead of "using" them. In other words, don't fight the book you are reading, even if it is something that you disagree with. Lewis says that "we can find a book bad only by reading it as if it might, after all, be very good," and that " work can succeed without a preliminary act of good will on the part of the reader." Lewis defines a good book as one that "elicits good reading." Now, to find out what he means by "good" reading you have to read the book. When it comes to criticism, Lewis says that "You cannot be armed to the teeth and surrendered at the same moment." How many times have you read an this site review in which the reviewer clearly never put down his weapons? It's a wonder that they could even hold the book up to read with all the weaponry in their hands.

In a chapter about realism, Lewis presents, very charmingly, a brilliant and simple argument for the adult reading of children's literature and fantasy. I myself like to read classic children's literature from time to time--admittedly wondering, all the while, if it is a fault to do so--and Lewis clearly shows how erroneous and silly that worry is. He is famous for his asides. The man truly possesses a philosophical mind. I imagine Lewis as a little boy trying to convince his dad that it would be okay if he stayed up late to read. "Dad, let me tell you why it wouldn't hurt anything; I have some pretty good reasons." "Jack," says Lewis's dad, "just go to bed; tomorrow is another day." "Yeah but just listen." "Fine, go ahead." Lewis then proceeds to lay down such a tight logical argument that his dad can do nothing but turn and leave the room as little Jack runs to the bookshelf. Ha! Ha!

There is a very interesting chapter on poetry. Lewis wonders if poetry will suffer the same fate as rhetoric: once being important and vital, but eventually being confined strictly to academia. Lewis wrote this in 1961, and my own opinion is that poetry is now there. For example, I took a literature class a few semesters ago that completely--and intentionally--ignored poetry. But Lewis has plenty more to say about poetry. I thought this was a great quote about modern poetry: "It is a pity if a glazed picture is so placed that you see in it only your own reflection; it is not a pity when a mirror is so placed." In other words, in reading "old poetry," one should be able to grasp the authors intention; but when reading modern poetry, it is sometimes only possible to ultimately see yourself. And "that's not a pity," says Lewis. With that being said, I think Lewis prefers the old--as do I.

Lewis is utterly fair in this book. There were a few times when I thought that he was going to slam a certain style or book or way of reading, but he never does. To put it simply, the man is very kind. He is also very interesting to read. If there is anyone with the credentials to discuss books and reading, it is C.S. Lewis. I have heard many a Lewis scholar talk of their amazement at the amount of books he read. Peter Kreeft once offhandedly commented that "it seems as if Lewis has read every book ever written." But before we read as many books as Lewis, we have to read this book first. As Lewis says in another essay, "You can't get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first." Read this book and gain the tools to tackle, and fully digest and receive, all other books. If you're a big time reader--or if you don't presently enjoy reading but want to acquire the taste--this is a book you need to read. I have found that I can go back to this book again and again, and I continue to find things that I never knew were there.

(If your main interest is with non-fiction, I would suggest Mortimer Adler's classic book entitled "How to Read a Book.")
Why we read is a process more important than what we read, Lewis claims.....................  Jan 1, 2007
Why read? C.S. Lewis says because it is a hedonistic pleasure and it is "good". Good for Lewis does not mean the subject matter is true or even logical but dependent on individual need.

In the first chapter he compares buying a book to someone who buys a picture. The need can be very different from one person to the next. One might buy the picture to cover a bare spot on the wall and then after a week or two the pictures become mostly invisible to them. The good news is that the bare spot is now invisable too. Another person would buy a picture, live with it, and actually feed off of it, for years. This book helps to understand what it might mean to "feed off" what the book said showing that reading allows one to become what they had not been before. He likens this condition to a Greek poem saying, "I see with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see".

The book has eleven chapters and an epilogue. Many of these chapters deal with the different choices and kinds of things people read. It concludes with a final chapter that draws conclusions about how literary tastes, reading choices and the process and approach to reading. The book concludes that the way we read is more important than what we read. Mastering the process suggested enables us to become, as he suggests, "a thousand men and yet remain myself".

Rather than pushing a point of view, something it could be assumed and even expected that a Christian writer would do, this book pushes the idea of real agency of reading choice. He then shows how pleasurable the experience can be.

Criticism Criticized  Nov 9, 2006
"An Experiment in Criticism" is a stretching book. Stemming from his "day jobs" at Oxford and Cambridge, Lewis' essay turns literary criticism on its head. He proposes that, rather than analyze what a given book seems to be saying, we analyze why we read a book. The whole is an interesting venture into reading books with open minds, but may prove obtuse to the casual reader. Only recommended for the serious student of literature.
A Good Read  May 2, 2006
"You can't get a book long enough or a cup of tea big enough to suit me," C.S. Lewis once said. Well of course-- an Oxford and Cambridge prof. I'm the opposite: I should like a small cup and a brief book, preferably one with short chapters I can read at a sitting. This brief book doesn't fulfill Lewis' criteria, but it does mine. I also like to read slowly, with a book mark under the line, savoring every word. This book reads delightfully slow and is, oddly enough, a book about reading.

Given the fact that Lewis seems to be replying to some thesis or idea of which I am unaware, which is far more the case in The Abolition of Man, which many people nevertheless read with profit, and that one might question the very idea of a book about reading (who needs that?) this remains one of my favorite Lewis books and has done its work so well that I nearly cannot say why. What I do know is that it's entirely changed the way I read (and view reading), and made it a pleasure above TV and video games. I still don't desire to delve into thick tomes or to quaff large steaming cups of of Earl Grey, but this Oxford don has given my small small draughts and slim pages a deeper enjoyment.
Objective Aesthetics argued for by Personal Biases  Sep 14, 2005
Of all of C.S. Lewis' books, this is one of the few that I sincerely disagree with. Lewis here lays out a claim about the difference between two basic kinds of aesthetic appreciation - on the one hand are people who appreciate the form of art, and the other, people who inject their own private meaning into it, thus viewing art and aesthetic experience in primarily functional terms. This distinction seems to me to be fundamentally flawed, and although Lewis gives a periodic nod to the artificiality of the dichotomy he has here created, the language he uses only obscures the reality of his fundamental point.

I respect C.S. Lewis a great deal, but I believe that this book is evidence of his insulation in academia (and this review is being written by an academic, no less). For someone like him, who has made careful thinking his life's business, the 'dark gods of the woods' that call so imploringly to the 'common man' appear quite vulgar and pagan (and he has said as much elsewhere). The participation that normal people have with art is, from the point of view of someone who has spent a lifetime isolating and clarifying this very experience, quite sloppy and low. In this book, he has let those intuitive reactions get mixed up with his philosophy, and it makes for a fairly sloppy book. This surprised me, because Lewis' work on medieval thought is excellent, perhaps the best there is. As Barfield points out, medieval aesthetics are highly participatory.

For books on aesthetics and literature from a religious perspective, I would sooner recommend Owen Barfield (oddly enough, one of Lewis' closest friends). Barfield seems to me to be much more careful in his thinking on this particular topic.

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