1. bookVolume 20 (2022): Issue 3 (July 2022)
    A Multi-Angle Examination of C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces. Theological, Philosophical, Ethical, and Literary Insights from one of Lewis's Greatest Novels. Issue Editor: Zachary Breitenbach
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Journal
eISSN
2284-7308
First Published
20 Sep 2012
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3 times per year
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English
access type Open Access

Sehnsucht as Signpost: The Autobiographical Impulse of C. S. Lewis

Published Online: 19 May 2022
Volume & Issue: Volume 20 (2022) - Issue 3 (July 2022)<br/>A Multi-Angle Examination of C. S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces. Theological, Philosophical, Ethical, and Literary Insights from one of Lewis's Greatest Novels. Issue Editor: Zachary Breitenbach
Page range: 33 - 53
Journal Details
License
Format
Journal
eISSN
2284-7308
First Published
20 Sep 2012
Publication timeframe
3 times per year
Languages
English
Abstract

For half a century, readers of C. S. Lewis had only two problematic and at times obscure spiritual autobiographies (The Pilgrim’s Regress and Surprised by Joy) to use in attempts to understand Lewis’s journey to faith through what he called Joy, Sehnsucht, or longing. Both books, though important and full of key insights, in some ways hid more than they revealed. Recent discoveries, however, have widened the arc of autobiography. Lewis’s landmark pre-Christian account of his conversion to theism, ‘Early Prose Joy’, published in 2013, monumentally widened and deepened our understanding of Lewis’s spiritual journey to faith. And the fragmentary poem ‘I Will Write Down the Portion that I Understand’ also adds significant insight, at least into Lewis’s composition process of grappling with conversion. Insightful recent scholarship by Alister McGrath suggests widening the scope of what we consider spiritual autobiography in Lewis to include A Grief Observed; this idea opens the door to a broader view of how autobiography functions both in Lewis’s compositional life and in the categorization of his writings. This essay accepts that invitation, finding clear autobiographical efforts to capture the role of Joy in Lewis’s early poetry, including Dymer, and in his late novel Till We Have Faces. That last book, written with soon-to-be-wife Joy Davidman, serves crucially to change the focus of Lewis’s spiritual autobiographies from Joy to love. By thus expanding and exploring Lewis’s autobiographical arc, this essay brings to light an almost teleological understanding of love and the central theme of Lewis’s life and work.

Keywords

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