Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life Analysis

C. S. Lewis

Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

A longtime friend and literary executor of the Lewis estate, Owen Barfield, has suggested that there were, in fact, three C.S. Lewises. That is to say, there were three different vocations that Lewis fulfilled—and fulfilled successfully—in his lifetime. There was, first, Lewis the distinguished Oxford don and literary critic; second, Lewis the highly acclaimed author of science fiction and children’s literature; and third, Lewis the popular writer and broadcaster of Christian apologetics. The amazing thing, Barfield notes, is that those who were familiar with Lewis in any single role may not have known that he performed in the other two. In a varied and comprehensive writing career, Lewis carved out a sterling reputation as a scholar, novelist, and theologian for three very different audiences. In Surprised by Joy, written seven years before his death, Lewis helps to shed light on all three of his personas.

Surprised by Joy represents one of the few works within the Lewis canon that speaks directly and unabashedly about his personal life. Given the almost stifling attention that Lewis’ private life has received since his death in 1963, Surprised by Joy stands apart as an astonishingly candid yet self-effacing volume by one widely regarded as the premier Christian apologist of the twentieth century. Lewis proceeds in Surprised by Joy as one reluctant to reveal specific details of his life but who relents, as he suggests in the preface, in order both to answer “requests that I would tell how I passed from Atheism to Christianity” and “to correct one or two false notions that seem to have got about.” Lewis’ reluctance does not simply involve the conventional modesty of the autobiographer who wishes to downplay the importance of his life but stems as well from his conviction that no writer’s work is especially illuminated by psychological inquiry into his or her life. As a renowned literary critic and literary historian, he had witnessed too many works...

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(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Carnell, Corbin Scott. Bright Shadow of Reality: C.S. Lewis and the Feeling Intellect, 1974.

Edwards, Bruce L. A Rhetoric of Reading: C.S. Lewis’s Defense of Western Literacy, 1986.

Edwards, Bruce L., ed. The Taste of the Pineapple: C.S. Lewis as Reader, Critic, and Imaginative Writer, 1988.

Green, Roger Lancelyn, and Walter Hooper. C.S. Lewis: A Biography, 1974.

Hannay, Margaret Patterson. C.S. Lewis, 1981.

Holmer, Paul. C.S. Lewis: The Shape of His Faith and Thought, 1976.

Howard, Thomas. The Achievement of C.S. Lewis, 1980.

Lindskoog, Kathryn. C.S. Lewis: Mere Christian, 1981.