The Chronicles of Narnia by Leland Ryken

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The Chronicles of Narnia
Leland Ryken
Leland Ryken (Wheaton College)

Dr. Leland Ryken is professor of English at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, and he is author of Choosing a Bible.

One of the most important pieces of advice that Lewis gave to readers of literature is that they must receive a work of literature instead of using it. Lewis wrote, “A work of…art can be either ‘received’ or ‘used’. When we ‘receive’ it we exert our senses and imagination and various other powers according to a pattern invented by the artist. When we ‘use’ it we treat it as assistance for our own activities” (emphasis added). According to this line of thought, “The first demand any work of art makes upon us is surrender. Look. Listen. Receive. Get yourself out of the way.”

The second warning that Lewis gave is not to reduce works of literature to a set of ideas. He claimed that “one of the prime achievements in every good fiction has nothing to do with truth or philosophy…at all.” To regard a story “as primarily a vehicle for…philosophy is an outrage to the thing the poet has made for us.” Works of literature “are complex and carefully made objects. Attention to the very objects they are is our first step.” This, too, should steer us away from how many Christian readers deal with The Chronicles of Narnia.

Read more about:
How the Narnian Stories Were Composed
How the Narnian Stories Became Christian Classics
Spiritual and Moral Lessons from Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia
by Leland Ryken

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