Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Preface to Paradise Lost

On this day in 1942, A Preface to Paradise Lost by C.S. Lewis was published in hardback by Oxford University Press. That same year Lewis also published The Screwtape Letters (February, a compilation of the serialized letters that first appeared in a newspaper) and Broadcast Talks (July, which would become part of Mere Christianity).

A Preface to Paradise Lost, one of Lewis's academic literary works, was written in 1941, with Lewis delivering highlights of the work at the Ballard Matthews Lectures, University College of North Wales, December 1-3, 1941.

My primary academic area is philosophy, so A Preface to Paradise Lost is not something I can comment on authoritatively from the perspective of literary criticism. Nevertheless, it contains some interesting insights relevant to other areas of Lewis's life and thought.

For instance, Lewis begins by stressing the importance of form or genre of a work. To know what something is, such as epic poetry in the case of Milton's Paradise Lost, is important. "The first thing is to understand the object before you," wrote Lewis.

I found A Preface to Paradise Lost particularly helpful in researching my forthcoming book Inside The Screwtape Letters (Baker Books) due to chapters in the preface on "The Theology of Paradise Lost, "Satan," "Satan's Followers," and "The Mistake About Milton's Angels."

No comments: