I have seldom taught a writer that I dislike.
I really, really don't like this C. S. Lewis.
How I let myself get sucked into teaching him -- well. One of my teaching goals is I want to be more open, more receptive to my conservative students. You know. Give them a voice in the classroom.
It seems like a good goal. Doesn't it?
Anyway, one of my conservative Christian students, one I like, a smart one, whose mind I sincerely admire, asked me whether we could read this book by Lewis, Till We Have Faces, in the myth class.
It's a work that's considered (by lots of folk) to be literature. It uses mythology. As I recalled, having not read it in over 20 years, it wasn't badly written. (It isn't, by the way, badly written. He's not a bad writer, Lewis.) And this student had, in fact, quite staunchily, read all the feminist and queer and Asian and Jewish literature I had presented him with in my diverse cultures class. Turn about, right? So I said, cheerily, oh, yes. Why don't we?
Lewis is kicking my ass.
I despise this man.
It's not because he's a Christian. I swear it isn't. I swear, I swear, I swear.
I read Milton and I love Milton. (I disagree with him at every turn, but hey, he's brilliant and he's worth the battle.)
I read Chaucer, a Christian, and I love Chaucer. Also a Christian, who makes no bones about it.
I even read that Jesus fellow. What a Christian. I like him too.
But this fucking Lewis. He's -- he's -- he's shallow. He's a second-rate thinker.
And he does not pay attention. He does not give the actual world his attention.
For a writer, there can, in my opinion, be no worse crime.
In my opinion, by the way, he is doing this because if he looked at the world, it would contradict his worldview -- he doesn't want to see things that would make him doubt what he already "knows" to be true.
And that -- in my worldview -- is the true evil.
Reading him, frankly, makes me filthy. Even when he says things I like, or find interesting, which he from time to time does, he's not wholly useless, I feel like I'm talking to someone slightly creepy.
Here, btw, is my favorite quotation so far: It's from Surprised by Joy, his autobiography about his early years, and is his explaining his dread of insects: "You may add that in the hive and the anthill we see fully realized the two things that some of us most dread for our own species -- the dominance of the female and the dominance of the collective" (7).
I love that us.
Also, note that it's bees and ants he's terrified of. Bees and ants! What kind of kid hates bees and ants?
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