Excerpts from some of Lewis' scholarly worksThere is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. . . . . It has always . . . been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that first-hand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than second-hand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.
"Introduction," St. Anthanasius, On the Incarnation, Revised edition, Translated and Edited byk a Religious of C.S.M.V., Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, 1953, p. 3.
Humanity does not pass through phases as a train passes through stations: being alive, it has the privilege of always moving yet never leaving anything behind. Whatever we have been, in some sort we are still. Neither the form nor the sentiment of this old poetry has passed away without leaving indelible traces on our minds. We shall understand our present, and perhaps even our future, the better if we can succeed, by an effort of the historical imagination, in reconstructing that long-lost state of mind for which the allegorical love poem was a natural mode of expression.
from "'Liberal' as a Cultural Term"
Here is an astonishing change. Up till now a study could be free because it was the characteristic occupation of a freeman. Aristotle now makes it 'free' in a quite new sense; namely by analogy. It is a free study because it holds among other studies the same privileged position which the freeman holds among other men. The conceit is all the better for taking up into itself the much simpler idea that disinterestedness is an essential part of the 'free' character. The free study seeks nothing beyond itself and desires the activity of knowing for that activity's own sake.
His [David Lindsay's] Tormance is a region of the spirit. He is the first writer to discover what 'other planets' are really good for in fiction. No merely physical strangeness or merely spatial distance will realize the idea of otherness which is what we are always trying to grasp in a story about voyaging through space: you must go into another dimension. To construct plausible and moving 'other worlds' you must draw on the only real 'other world' we know, that of the spirit.
Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is 'I have got out'. Or from another point of view, "I have got in'; pierced the shell of some other monad and discovered what is like inside. . . .
An Experiment in Criticism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961, p. 138.
. . . in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.
The Faerie Queene is perhaps the most difficult poem in English. Quite how difficult, I am only now beginning to realize after forty years of reading it. For one thing, it demands for its full enjoyment a double response. But in this, of curse, it is like most old literature. Falstaff is both a funny fat man and an ironic comment on the world he inhabits; Hamlet, both a profound exploration of death and a rousing melodrama; the Divina commediea both a mimesis of the whole spiritual life and first-class science fiction.
Applying this principle [that the highest achievement in art is not creativity but imitation of ultimate reality or truth] to literature, in its greatest generality, we should get as the basis of all critical theory the maxim that an author should never conceive himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his own art some reflection of eternal Beauty or Wisdom. Our criticism would therefore from the beginning group itself with some existing theories of poetry against others. It would have affinities with the primitive or Homeric theory in which the poet is the mere pensioner of the Muse. It would have affinities with the Platonic doctrine of a transcendent Form partly imitable on earth; and remoter affinities with the Aristotelian doctrine of [memesis (my transliteration)] and the Augustan doctrine about the imitation of Nature and the Ancients. It would be opposed to the theory of genius as, perhaps, generally understood; and above all, it would be opposed to the idea that literature is self-expression.