Religion and Literature: C. S. Lewis in Context

Steve Smith Office: Christian Center 11, 601-974-1334
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Home: 1611 Edgewood St, 601-354-2290

Religious Studies 3160-01
Spring 2015 T Th 2:45-4:00

How can imaginative literature be a home for religious experience? How is imaginative writing capable of shaping religious meaning? These are core questions in a Religion and Literature course. In this edition of Religion and Literature our focus will be on C. S. Lewis, one of the most widely read of 20th-century religious writers. Indeed, Lewis is so popular that a historical question comes along inevitably with our religious-literary questions: What is the significance of the Lewis phenomenon? And where do we stand in relation to it?

We will look at examples of Lewis’s autobiographical, philosophical, and theological writing as well as his fiction to get a fuller sense of the character of his authorship as a whole. We will establish a context for Lewis’s work in three ways: (1) by examining earlier writers who influenced Lewis by writing impressively in genres that Lewis would also write in; (2) by discussing the great debates of Lewis’s time on the basis of the intellectual map he provides in The Pilgrim’s Regress; and (3) by reading other imaginative writers of comparable religious purpose whose approach differs markedly from Lewis’s.

Readings will be assigned in handouts, websites, and these books, available in the bookstore:
The Essential C. S. Lewis (ECSL) ed. Lyle Dorsett
C. S. Lewis, The Pilgrim’s Regress
C. S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength

The course grade will be determined by:
Class participation 10%
Weekly writings (2-3 p. papers) 45%
Take-home essay midterm exam 15%
Term project 30%

subject to revision by announcement in class or by e-mail

T 1/13 Introduction to class.

Th 1/15 G. K. Chesterton & Christian apologetics (Orthodoxy chap. 6 online)

T 1/20 Mere Christianity (in ECSL)

Th 1/22 Autobiography & allegory: John Bunyan & The Pilgrim’s Regress (beginning of Pilgrim’s Progress online)

T 1/27 The Pilgrim’s Regress cont.

Th 1/29 Autobiography cont.: Surprised by Joy (in ECSL)

T 2/3 George MacDonald & religious fantasy (excerpts from Phantastes online)

Th 2/5 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (in ECSL)

T 2/10 LWW cont.

Th 2/12 LWW cont. & The Last Battle (excerpt online)

T 2/17 John Milton & religious epic (excerpts from Paradise Lost online)

Th 2/19 Perelandra (in ECSL)

T 2/24 Perelandra cont.

Th 2/26 Perelandra cont.

T 3/3 Philosophy: The Abolition of Man (in ECSL)

Th 3/5 AM cont.



T 3/17 Project proposals.

Th 3/19 Olaf Stapledon & “scientifiction” (excerpts from Last and First Men online)

T 3/24 That Hideous Strength

Th 3/26 THS cont.

T 3/31 THS cont.

Th 4/2 THS cont.

T 4/7 Critiques of Lewis (TBA)

Th 4/9 Critiques of Lewis cont. (TBA)

T 4/14 Religious writers in comparison: Dostoyevski (excerpts from The Brothers Karamazov online)

Th 4/16 Religious writers in comparison: O’Connor (“Revelation” online)

FIRST DRAFT OF TERM PROJECT DUE FRIDAY 4/17 (in hardcopy and electronically).

T 4/21 Workshopping term projects.

Th 4/23 Workshopping term projects.

TERM PROJECT DUE by end of final exams period.


Weekly writings will be due in class on Tuesdays (with a couple of exceptions—probably 3/17 and 4/21).

The purpose of the assigned writings in the course is to practice noticing specific moves made by writers and reflecting on these in relation to ideas we are entertaining in the course and interests of your own. Grades on writing will reflect the degree to which you fulfill these criteria:

(1) Making an argument of your own that grapples with ideas introduced in the course, with
(2) sensitive perception of particular elements of assigned texts, and
(3) effective use of English.

[A=excellent, B=good, C=satisfactory, D=unsatisfactory/passing, F=not passing]


Any term project is welcome that will shed analytic light on Lewis’s imaginative religious writing. As long as you carefully examine some appropriate Lewis material you can pursue your interest in Lewis’s ideas or images OR in theory of fiction OR in literary or religious history OR in someone else’s or your own approach to imaginative religious writing. A term project should be 10-12 pp. Due dates for proposals and drafts are in the schedule. We will workshop these studies in April before they are finalized.


When a paper is required, even a so-called “First Draft,” do not submit the very first draft you write. Edit yourself; turn in a draft that is not so first-drafty.

Here are some of the most unfortunate elements of first-draftiness:

1. The flow is ragged and confusing because the paper needs to be reorganized according to what’s really important in its content and argument.

2. The paper doesn’t yet make any definite point.

3. It’s flabby: there are phrases and sentences throughout that could be cut.

4. There are many typos and other mechanical errors and inconsistencies.

5. (In a research paper:) Some works cited in the paper are not included in Works Cited, or vice versa.

Unless you are an exceptionally skilled writer and a semidivine being, you cannot write a paper at the last minute that is free of these problems. A paper written at the last minute will be first-drafty, and that will lower its grade.


1. Class attendance. Being in class, being engaged with the work of the class, and behaving courteously are all expected. One discourtesy to avoid is coming into class late. Better late than never, definitely; but lateness counts as half an absence.
One percent of the course grade will be lost for each absence from class for any reason, beginning with the third absence. For these purposes, each week’s 2 ½-hour class meeting is equal to two classes—thus, to miss either the first or second segment of a week’s meeting would equal one absence. To illustrate, someone who totaled 7 absences would thereby lose 5% of the course grade, or half a letter grade. The reason for this: our in class work is a crucial and irreplaceable part of the substance of the course.

2. Hardcopy required. Unless I’ve expressly stated otherwise, or unless I grant you permission in extraordinary circumstances, I expect every out-of-class writing assignment to be submitted by its deadline in a printed-out version rather than electronically. This makes a big difference in the effectiveness and efficiency with which I can respond to your writing performance as well as your ideas. Do, however, save copies of all your work, electronically if possible.

3. Late papers. Written assignments turned in late will lose a letter grade or equivalent. No work of any kind will be accepted after the last day of final examinations. Exceptions to this policy will be granted only to the victims of unforeseeable and uncontrollable circumstances. These circumstances must be explained to me when they occur.

4. Academic honor. All members of the Millsaps community are pledged to uphold academic honor, the core of which is refraining from giving or receiving unauthorized aid on any assignment. I particularly caution against plagiarism, that is, using the words or ideas of others without acknowledgement. Plagiarized work means a mandatory referral to the Honor Council and may result in expulsion from the class.

5. Incompletes. An “Incomplete” grade for the course will be given only to students who, due to unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances, find themselves unable to complete course requirements during the term and can reasonably be expected to complete them within a few weeks after the term’s end. The “Incomplete” must be requested and appropriately justified before the end of final examinations.

6. Disabilities. If you have any needs or require accommodations related to a disability or learning difference, please contact Patrick Cooper to register with the Office of Disability Services. You can reach him via e-mail at or by calling extension 1228. Accommodations will not be granted until a meeting has taken place with Patrick, letters have been processed, and you have met with your instructor.