viernes, 22 de mayo de 2015

C.S. Lewis is the ideal guide for those who would seek to restore truth and beauty to their proper place and role in our modern world

Restoring Beauty: the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis

by David Rozema

Restoring Beauty: the Good, the True and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis, by Louis Markos

Critical acclaim and popular interest has always accompanied the works of C.S. Lewis and his good friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, even from their first publications in the 1930’s and 1940’s. During the latter half of the century, interest ebbed and flowed, but the current flow, which has been roughly the past twenty years, has been a period of unprecedented interest resulting in an exponential jump in the publication of commentaries, guides and scholarly studies on the works of these men, particularly The Chronicles of Narnia andThe Lord of the Rings. The film industry has even jumped on the bandwagon. The motives of those who have benefitted from this renewed interest in Lewis and Tolkien (including myself) are, undoubtedly, mixed. Clearly, those with the purest motives will write from a position of sympathy with the views, concerns and values of Lewis and Tolkien themselves, will demonstrate both a thorough understanding of their works, and show genuine excitement about the beauty and timeless relevance of those works. There can be little doubt that Louis Markos is just such a writer.

In the Preface to Restoring Beauty, Professor Markos (who teaches English at Houston Baptist University) explains his reasons for focusing attention on the aesthetic and ethical dimensions of Lewis’s works: “More and more in our modern and postmodern culture these two concepts (beauty and truth) have been separated both from each other and from their individual connection to a divine source of Beauty and Truth: a separation that is perhaps most evident in the twin realms of education and the arts.” (p. 1) Markos makes a strong case for the direness of this cultural pass we have come to, and this book is his attempt to “construct a countervision to the prevailing mood of ugliness and relativism that has so gripped our culture.” (p. 2) This countervision, however, is not drawn primarily from his own mind, but from the rich mind of C.S. Lewis. Although Markos uses the term “culture” here as a sociologist might, in reference to “modern and postmodern” thought, he clearly thinks of it as a decline from a more humane and a more reasonable philosophy of life—a philosophy that is rooted in the Christian scriptures, as well as the writings of Plato, and reflected in the greatest works of literature and drama. In that sense, modern and postmodern “culture” is not a culture, for it has lost (or is in the process of losing) its moral and aesthetic bearings. Thus, as Markos ably and consistently reminds us, at the center of Lewis’s critique of modernity—and Markos’s correlative critique of postmodernity—is the undermining and gradual erosion of our belief in transcendent, universal, objectively certain standards (or ideals) of goodness, truth, and beauty. It is not easy to pinpoint the beginnings of this gradually progressing erosion, but Markos, following Lewis’s lead, argues that the origins of the decline are found (ironically enough) in the Enlightenment period, when humanism became secularized: when the faith of many, starting with the philosophers of the time, was subtly shifted from a transcendent God (or gods) to the immanent powers of Man’s Reason. From this initial shift, as subtle and seemingly justified as it was, modern culture has steadily been sliding down the slippery slope of relativism with respect to ethical and aesthetic values. Ultimately, ethical and aesthetic relativism reduces to nihilism.

The onus of Markos’s book, however, is not to reiterate this critique, but to point us toward the way back to Culture: the restoration of our love for the ideals beauty, goodness and truth. In this task he wisely looks to Lewis as a guide and an exemplar. Accordingly, Markos divides his book into two main sections, with each of these sections further subdivided into two, making a total of four sections. In the first two sections Markos looks primarily to Lewis’s fictional works as a touchstone for restoring our appreciation of beauty, since that is (or at least ought to be) one of the functions of art. The second half of the book aims for a restoration of our felt need for truth (in the moral realm), and here Markos looks primarily at Lewis’s non-fictional works—The Abolition of Man being the main source for the discussion in Part III of the book (“Men Without Chests”), and Lewis’s works on literary criticism being the primary sources for the discussion in Part IV (“Aslan in the Academy”).


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