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Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   347
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6" Height: 0.9"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2010
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  019973870X  
EAN  9780199738700  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
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 Drawing on the whole range of Lewis's writings (including previously unpublished drafts of the Chronicles), Ward reveals how the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets - - Jupiter, Mars,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."

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Michael Ward, Fellow of Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford.

Michael Ward currently resides in Miami.

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Product Categories
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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Serious - but enlightneing  Sep 18, 2009
When I found out about this book, I pictured a thoughtful, but accessible work that interpreted the Narnia stories from a new, thought provoking perspective. As I began reading I realized that this is a serious, academic study of the 7 books, and it required much more careful reading. Although this was initially discouraging, as I read I realized there were profound insights to be gained, not just into the Chronicles of Narnia, but into Lewis' intellectual life, his theology and worldview, as well as the character and nature of reality.
This book is not a must-read for every fan of Narnia since it may dispel the magic for some of it's fans, but for me, I deeeply appreciate the insights it gave, and I look forward to re-reading the books and immersing myself in the world C.S. Lewis created.
An overall success with a few glitches  Sep 8, 2009
When you finish this book you will have no doubt that Michael Ward has cracked the secret of one of the most-beloved sets of (children's) novels in the world. The mountain of evidence is tremendous. Ward has clearly left no stone, however small, unturned in Lewis's massive oeuvre. But this doesn't overwhelm the reader. Instead, Ward connects the dots in his argument so painstakingly that the generic differences between Lewis's fictional prose, poetry, and his academic work are almost elided.

This is not to say that the book is perfect. Ward is usually a concise and skilled writer. Sometimes, however, chapters begin to feel like lists, rather than arguments with arc. It's the danger with a book like this, but Ward, thankfully, never bores the reader too long in this mode. The second criticism I would lodge against the book is that Ward sometimes continues on with a chapter after he has already made a strong case for his thesis. He moves from strong evidence, and firm ground, to tenuous arguments and thin ice. Despite promises to the reader not to do so, he looks for anything in a chronicle that can be related, at however great a remove, to the book's presiding deity. I can only assume that Ward didn't feel he had sufficiently made his point, or that perhaps he was trying to rebut possible counterarguments or prove the case beyond all doubt. In any event, Ward's larger argument isn't damaged by these weaker sections, but an editor would have done well to remind Ward that 'sometimes a cigar is just a cigar', and sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence.

Overall, this is an excellent book. It takes some of the mystery away from the Chronicles, but should repay that loss with readings of the books that are enhanced by a newly found depth, or dimension.
In a word, brilliant  Aug 8, 2009
Planet Narnia is, in a word, brilliant. His use of Lewis' poety, of The Discarded Image, the Ransom trilogy, and Lewis' own literary criticism to illuminate the Narniad was beautifully done. He even found some external evidence in the letters and earlier drafts which is important. It had the feel of a very competent source-critical scholar of the quest for the historical Jesus school. He even had to make up his own word (though not in German) to describe his theory. He anticipated and answered all of my initial objections.

I think I'd call myself almost convinced. Lewis' own cautionary advice in his address to the divinity students ("Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism") makes me still reticent to wholeheartedly buy in. Given his space limitations, Ward understandably does not give much time to considering possible counter-examples in the texts. I'd like to see a competent scholarly attempt at refuting his thesis. But I would be rooting for Ward to prevail.

That said, I don't think that this book should be given to undergraduates generally speaking. They should be given The Discarded Image, the Ransom trilogy, the poetry, to be sure. But this book should wait until they have lived with the Narniad as part of their mental landscape for some time. If given too early, it could stunt rather than enrich their reading. Instead of allowing the "Donegality" to work on them (as Lewis intended if Ward is correct), they would be distracted by looking for instances of it. The Narniad should first be Enjoyed, preferably starting in early childhood, before it is Contemplated in this way.

Similarly, the Narnia movies should most definitely be forbidden to children lest the special effects of the moviemakers art quite replace the richer but necessarily less detailed images that Lewis himself invokes.

Incidentally, this book also had a pleasant and entirely non-literary effect on me. The effort when reading it to mentally inhabit the medieval cosmos that Lewis loved so much made me much more aware of the planets in the night sky. From earth they are just as lovely now as they were when men believed them to be gods or angels dancing through the heavens rather than dead rocks hurtling through the frozen emptiness of space.
Intriguing Perspective  Jun 29, 2009
I found this book fascinating and eye-opening! It puts Lewis in a different light, helping his fans understand him better. I wish I could sit down with Lewis and discuss the ideas in this book with him personally. By reading this book I feel I have come closer to my understanding on how Lewis thinks!
Academically stellar. Spiritually edifying.  Jun 27, 2009
Ward's argument is absolutely compelling and illuminating. His sources are well chosen from the whole breadth of Lewis's writing, including his less well known poetry. Ward's prose is also (so rare in academic writing) clear and enjoyable.

What distinguishes this as an academic book is the way it can be read for spiritual edification. His explanation of the character and virtues of the different planets and their correspondence to Christian understanding is a bracing reminder of things Western culture once knew and would do well to recover.

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