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Endless twilight: a study of C. S. Lewis’s language of beauty

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis examines formerly disparate literary-theological motifs of C.S. Lewis’s writing and suggests these themes to form a cohesive language of beauty. In particular, these motifs include: Northernness, Joy (Lewis’s specialized term), Sehnsucht, the numinous, and beauty. Rather than utilizing a comparative approach to Lewis’s use of beauty, this study aims to formulate a distinctive definition of Lewisian beauty by showing how the aforementioned elements reveal an aesthetic progression or experience germane to Lewis’s writing. Furthermore, this study’s analysis highlights Romanticism’s strong influence on Lewis in how it defines and reveals the aesthetic threads found in these concepts thus showing Lewis’s Romanticism as central in his expression of beauty as experience rather than mere Kantian judgment. 
Unique to this analysis of Lewis’s language of beauty is the concept of Northernness. Formerly, this Lewisian motif was seldom treated beyond a biographical footnote by Lewis scholars. This study offers first-of-its-kind research on the depth of Lewis’s self described “Norse Complex.” It shows, from a literary point of view, how Northernness not only contributes to Lewis’s use of literary atmosphere but also, from a conceptual-theological point of view, how he counters the inherent hopelessness of Northernness, which stems from the Norse apocalypse, with the Christian notion of eucatastrophe—a term coined by his contemporary, colleague, and friend, J.R.R. Tolkien. 
Finally, this analysis details Lewis’s phenomenological approach to apologetics (what I term “rhetorical poetics”) by showing how the numinous works within the literary beauty experience to enlarge imaginative capacity for the possibility of the Divine as the source of beauty. Thus, this thesis does not seek to show how beauty within Lewis’s writing operates as a proof for God. Rather, this study reveals a Lewisian literary theology of beauty that operates as an imaginative gateway into religious experience with the Divine.
Original languageEnglish
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Award date1 Nov 2016

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