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Narnia and the Fields of Arbol

The Environmental Vision of C. S. Lewis

Matthew Dickerson

Publication Year: 2009

The remarkable breadth of C. S. Lewis’s (1898–1963) work is nearly as legendary as the fantastical tales he so inventively crafted. A variety of themes emerge in his literary output, which spans the genres of nonfiction, fantasy, science fiction, and children’s literature, but much of the scholarship examining his work focuses on religion or philosophy. Overshadowed are Lewis’s views on nature and his concern for environmental stewardship, which are present in most of his work. In Narnia and the Fields of Arbol: The Environmental Vision of C. S. Lewis, authors Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara illuminate this important yet overlooked aspect of the author’s visionary work. Dickerson and O’Hara go beyond traditional theological discussions of Lewis’s writing to investigate themes of sustainability, stewardship of natural resources, and humanity’s relationship to wilderness. The authors examine the environmental and ecological underpinnings of Lewis’s work by exploring his best-known works of fantasy, including the seven books of the Chronicles of Narnia and the three novels collectively referred to as the Space Trilogy. Taken together, these works reveal Lewis’s enduring environmental concerns, and Dickerson and O’Hara offer a new understanding of his pioneering style of fiction. An avid outdoorsman, Lewis deftly combined an active imagination with a deep appreciation for the natural world. Narnia and the Fields of Arbol, the first book-length work on the subject, explores the marriage of Lewis’s environmental passion with his skill as a novelist and finds the author’s legacy to have as much in common with the agrarian environmentalism of Wendell Berry as it does with the fantasy of J. R. R. Tolkien. In an era of increasing concern about deforestation, climate change, and other environmental issues, Lewis’s work remains as pertinent as ever. The widespread adaption of his work in film lends credence to the author’s staying power as an influential voice in both fantastical fiction and environmental literature. With Narnia and the Fields of Arbol, Dickerson and O’Hara have written a timely work of scholarship that offers a fresh perspective on one of the most celebrated authors in literary history.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Series: Culture of the Land

Front cover

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pp. iv


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pp. viii

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pp. ix-x

Just as surely as good ecological practice must be understood not as an individual but as a communal affair, so the writing of this book has depended on a greater number of people than the two authors. Together we would like to offer especial thanks to John Elder, Norman Wirzba, Robert Siegel, and an anonymous reader for helpful comments on early ...

Conventions and Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xiii

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pp. 1-17

The present ecological crisis we are facing is due in part to an impoverishment of imagination. . . . Artistic resources must be an integral part in the development of genuine creation consciousness. Art works—in every medium—can symbolize for us our deepest concerns: they can be documents of what is and ...

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1. What He Thought about Everything

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pp. 18-45

In a preface to a volume of essays about C. S. Lewis, the late philosopher and writer Owen Barfield makes an interesting comment. “There was something in the whole quality and structure of his [Lewis’s] thinking, something for which the best label I can find is ‘presence of mind.’ And if I were asked to expand on that, I could only say that somehow what ...

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2. Nature and Meaning in the History of Narnia

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pp. 46-84

Wendell Berry’s powerful novel Jayber Crow—published in the year 2000 at the start of a new millennium—has as its subtitle The Life Story of Jayber Crow, barber, of the Port William Membership, as Written by Himself.1 And the book is, in a way, the life story of Jayber Crow. But it is also the life story of a small town, and more specifically of two ...

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3. The Magician’s Nephew: Creation and Narnian Ecology

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pp. 85-114

Anyone doubting that Lewis’s vision for Narnia is an agrarian one need only consider the job description for the first king of Narnia, given in The Magician’s Nephew. Even though it was the sixth book in the series to be published, The Magician’s Nephew is the first chronologically in the history of Narnia, and it may have been the second one Lewis imagined ...

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4. The Last Battle and the End of Narnia

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pp. 115-151

The Last Battle, the final book of the Chronicles of Narnia, begins with the ominous phrase, “In the last days of Narnia . . .” It ends with the great heroes of all seven books entering a heavenly paradise. For some, the most important environmental critique (or condemnation) of Christianity relates to the belief in heaven and the end of the earth ...

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5. Out of the Silent Planet: Re-imagining Ecology

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pp. 152-181

In recent decades biologists have discovered life in some very unlikely places. Extremely hot or cold environments, such as deep-sea vents and pools under Antarctic ice, harbor an abundance of creatures. Just decades ago, conventional wisdom held that nothing could live in such places. Now we find that things do live there, things that have expanded ...

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6. Perelandra: Creation and Conscience

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pp. 182-207

In 1960 a young girl named Meredith wrote to Lewis and asked him which of his books he thought was most “representational.” Lewis replied, “Do you mean simply which do I like the best? Now, the answer w[oul]d be Till We Have Faces and Perelandra.”1 For the last few decades of his life, Lewis considered Perelandra (written in 1941–1942) one of ...

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7. That Hideous Strength: Assault on the Soil and Soul of England

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pp. 208-240

In The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkien provides a threefold glimpse of the destructive ecological impact of evil. After portraying environmental devastation in its most extreme form in the faraway landscape of Mordor, and also in the ravaged land of Isengard, he brings the battle back to the Shire, the homeland of the Hobbits. For many readers, this ...

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8. The Re-enchantment of Creation

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pp. 241-260

In the title of this chapter, we use the word enchantment. We have used the word often throughout this book, but so far haven’t stopped to say exactly what we mean by it. Part of the reason is that it has multiple meanings, and we have made use of more than one. Enchantment may be a subjective feeling. Something—in the context of this book ...


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pp. 261-287

Recommended Reading

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pp. 288-289


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pp. 290-304

E-ISBN-13: 9780813173191
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813125220

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Culture of the Land