Monday, May 14, 2007

Lewis on Reading

Kevin and Ryan, this one's for you, since I know you both love to read. Hee hee. Really, though, I thought these quotes were so good that I had to copy them from Justin Taylor's blog.

C.S. Lewis on why we enjoy reading:


The nearest I have yet got to answer is that we seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves. Each of us by nature sees the whole world from one point of view with a perspective and a selectiveness peculiar to himself. And even when we build disinterested fantasies, they are saturated with, and limited by, our own psychology. To acquiesce in this particularity on the sensuous level—in other words, not to discount perspective—would be lunacy. We should then believe that the railway line really grew narrower as it receded into the distance. But we want to escape the illusions of perspective on higher levels too. We want to see with other eyes, to imagine with other imaginations, to feel with other hearts, as well as with our own. We demand windows. Literature as Logos is a series of windows, even of doors. One of the things we feel after reading a great work is “I have got out.” Or from another point of view, “I have got in”; pierced the shell of some other monad and discovered what it is like inside.

Literature enlarges our being by admitting us to experiences not our own. They may be beautiful, terrible, awe-inspiring, exhilarating, pathetic, comic, or merely piquant. Literature gives the entree to them all. Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom realize the enormous extension of our being that we owe to authors. We realize it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense, but he inhabits a tiny word. In it, we should be suffocated. My own eyes are not enough for me. Even the eyes of all humanity are not enough. Very gladly would I learn what face things present to a mouse or bee. In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in a Greek poem, I see with a thousand eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965), 137–141. Cited in Jerram Barrs's essay, Christianity and the Arts.

(HT: BetweenTwoWorlds)

-Amber-

3 comments:

Jenn Romanski said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenn Romanski said...

I love it! But then again, I love reading:-) Seriously though, thanks for passing along this great quote. I love how wise people can express thoughts and feelings that so closely match my own thoughts and feelings...but with more grace and eloquence than I would never ever express it.

kyle said...

Without doubt one of the best explanations of the capacity of literature I have ever read. I am in awe of Lewis's ability to put into words what I have always felt. I almost cried :)