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In The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, providing the historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It describes the "image" discarded by later years as "the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious ment In The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, providing the historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It describes the "image" discarded by later years as "the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental model of the universe." This, Lewis’s last book, has been hailed as "the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind."


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In The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, providing the historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It describes the "image" discarded by later years as "the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious ment In The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, providing the historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It describes the "image" discarded by later years as "the medieval synthesis itself, the whole organization of their theology, science and history into a single, complex, harmonious mental model of the universe." This, Lewis’s last book, has been hailed as "the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind."

30 review for The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (eBook Original)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    To me, this might be C. S. Lewis' best book. I will have to cop to not really liking the Narnia books (too allegorical and those British schoolchildren are pretty annoying), and while I do quite like his "Space Trilogy" I think that Lewis was much better as a writer of academic non-fiction than he was as a fiction writer. Here Lewis is able to tackle a huge subject: medieval cosmology and worldview, and bring both his wide reading and ability to make things understandable to the "common man" to To me, this might be C. S. Lewis' best book. I will have to cop to not really liking the Narnia books (too allegorical and those British schoolchildren are pretty annoying), and while I do quite like his "Space Trilogy" I think that Lewis was much better as a writer of academic non-fiction than he was as a fiction writer. Here Lewis is able to tackle a huge subject: medieval cosmology and worldview, and bring both his wide reading and ability to make things understandable to the "common man" to the table. In his emminently readable way Lewis starts by setting the stage, asking his audience (this was originally a series of lectures given to non-academics) to imagine a world according to the view proposed by the ancients and medievals. He also asks us not to judge this view, for many of its assumptions are no less strange than the ones we hold ourselves and our own belief that many of these ancients were foolish and superstitious, unable to distinguish between fact and metaphor in their depiction of the universe, is both pompous and mistaken. We then move on to Lewis' discussion of the classical roots of medieval thought and belief, the hallowed place of the auctores in this conception, and the development of the medieval worldview with the melding of classical and Christian thought. We see the major figures taken as authorities and the views that came to be accepted regarding the universe and its inhabitants. The modes of medieval education are also covered, which help to delineate the subjects they thought most important and the major components that went to make these up. Lewis always keeps things light and accessible, but has a breadth of knowledge and love for his subject that really shines through. I'd consider this book a great introduction to the thoughts and beliefs that the medievals had about their universe and then I'd move on the the "Space Trilogy" to see how Lewis incorporated these ideas into a science fiction tale that at least partially takes this cosmology as true as part of its basic premise. Great stuff. (In some ways I'd see this as a good companion piece to E.M.W Tillyard's The Elizabethan World Picture)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ron

    In every period the Model of the Universe which is accepted by the great thinkers helps to provide what we may call a backcloth for the arts. But this backcloth is highly selective. An excellent work from C. S. Lewis's day job. A must read for students of history as well as literature. Takes the reader into the worldview of literate people of that era. Not only what they read, but how they viewed reality. Some surprises. Medieval art was deficient in perspective, and poetry followed suit. Nature, In every period the Model of the Universe which is accepted by the great thinkers helps to provide what we may call a backcloth for the arts. But this backcloth is highly selective. An excellent work from C. S. Lewis's day job. A must read for students of history as well as literature. Takes the reader into the worldview of literate people of that era. Not only what they read, but how they viewed reality. Some surprises. Medieval art was deficient in perspective, and poetry followed suit. Nature, for Chaucer, is all foreground; we never get a landscape. Much more accessible than other scholarly books of the same genre, yet fascinating insights to a time and place so different from our own that it might as well be science-fiction or fantasy. Make no mistake, this is not easy reading. It is the survey work of the impact of the Medieval model of reality on the literature of the period, not of the model nor of the literature. One gets the impression that medieval people, like Professor Tolkien’s Hobbits, enjoyed books which told them what they already knew. Modern authors should review this work before presuming to write period pieces of this era. Many of their stories involve modern characters set in the Middle Ages. The reader is jarred by the anachronism, even though he or she may not realize why. With this attitude goes the characteristically medieval type of imagination. It is not a transforming imagination like Wordsworth’s or a penetrative imagination like Shakespeare’s. It is a realising imagination. Upon third reading: Every time I re-read The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature my opinion of it and its author rises. Upon fourth reading: Just because the Medieval model was wrong should not prevent us from learning from it. And that we should understand that our modern model is also in constant revision and correction. A factor, in both cases, is that the model influences the posing of questions as much as it provides answers. “Each is a serious attempt to get in all the phenomena known at a given period, and each succeeds in getting in a great many. But also, no less surely, each reflects the prevalent psychology of an age almost as much as it reflects the state of that age’s knowledge.” He used the popularity of science fiction stories as impelling the search for extra-terrestrial beings in the early twentieth century. Perhaps current astrophysics’ pursuit of m- and string theories is as due to the unacceptability of a finite universe as any evidence to the contrary.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    C S Lewis' introduction to Medieval and Renaissance literature focuses on the medieval world view. He outlines medieval cosmology, beliefs about humanity and attitudes to the classical past and to scholarship in general, summarising the principal classical and late classical/early medieval authors through whose work the seminal ideas of the period were transmitted. Lewis was a natural teacher and his explanations are refreshingly free from the obscurism that is so prevalent in much literary criti C S Lewis' introduction to Medieval and Renaissance literature focuses on the medieval world view. He outlines medieval cosmology, beliefs about humanity and attitudes to the classical past and to scholarship in general, summarising the principal classical and late classical/early medieval authors through whose work the seminal ideas of the period were transmitted. Lewis was a natural teacher and his explanations are refreshingly free from the obscurism that is so prevalent in much literary criticism. It's not an easy book to read since it expects a level of cultural awareness that is by no means universal nowadays. I needed the aid of Wikipedia and the Concise Oxford Dictionary on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, I found this a very rewarding read and I was a little surprised to realise how much of my mindset is completely medieval.

  4. 4 out of 5

    C.R. Wiley

    Probably Lewis's least read work. In my opinion it is his most important book. Generally, fans of Lewis admire his apologetics or his fiction but can't approach his genius with either. True, he was a very gifted communicator. But what these people don't seem to understand is Lewis was not a modern man, and they are. It is puzzling, seeing as he was very open and forthright about being a dinosaur of sorts. But his erstwhile devotees can't accept that it is his medieval mind that made him so fresh Probably Lewis's least read work. In my opinion it is his most important book. Generally, fans of Lewis admire his apologetics or his fiction but can't approach his genius with either. True, he was a very gifted communicator. But what these people don't seem to understand is Lewis was not a modern man, and they are. It is puzzling, seeing as he was very open and forthright about being a dinosaur of sorts. But his erstwhile devotees can't accept that it is his medieval mind that made him so fresh and poignant for modern readers. This book introduces you to medieval cosmology. If you want to understand why everything Lewis wrote is actually an apology not just for generic Christianity, but for a medieval Christianity, read this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Skrivena stranica

    Lewis, my friend, you didn't disappoint. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to have Lewis teach you about medieval literature. Lewis, my friend, you didn't disappoint. I can only imagine how wonderful it would be to have Lewis teach you about medieval literature.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Skrivena stranica

    Lewis is more writing an introduction into medieval way of thinking than introduction to medieval literature. It's not a bad thing, just an observation. If you know nothing of Middle Ages, you will be really lost. I have some knowledge on the matter and in the things that I'm thin in, I would get lost. For this reason, I almost gave it 4 stars, but that Epilogue was amazing, so 5 stars. Lewis is more writing an introduction into medieval way of thinking than introduction to medieval literature. It's not a bad thing, just an observation. If you know nothing of Middle Ages, you will be really lost. I have some knowledge on the matter and in the things that I'm thin in, I would get lost. For this reason, I almost gave it 4 stars, but that Epilogue was amazing, so 5 stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mistie

    This one will require multiple reads!! I loved everything I understood. I know there is so much that I missed in this initial reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Genni

    In the very last chapter, Lewis makes the following remark: “On the lowest intellectual level, people who find any one subject entirely engrossing are apt to think that any reference to it, of whatever quality, must have some value.” In reference to Medieval literature, this was not me. I have worked my way through several works of this time period and cannot think of a single one that I have given more than 3 stars (the one exception being some excerpts of Aquinas). I have not found them engros In the very last chapter, Lewis makes the following remark: “On the lowest intellectual level, people who find any one subject entirely engrossing are apt to think that any reference to it, of whatever quality, must have some value.” In reference to Medieval literature, this was not me. I have worked my way through several works of this time period and cannot think of a single one that I have given more than 3 stars (the one exception being some excerpts of Aquinas). I have not found them engrossing. I tend to operate from the principle of approaching first sources before going to secondary sources. Lewis does not object to this approach, but raises the following point: “ To be always looking at the map when there is a fine prospect before you shatters the ‘wise passiveness’ in which landscape ought to be enjoyed. But to consult a map before we set out has no such ill effect. Indeed it will lead us to many prospects; including some we might never have found by following our noses.” The works of other time periods have struck a chord with me without needing a map but, at this point, I needed both Lewis’s remark as well as his work. The book is fairly short, but the list of objectives he accomplishes in this short frame is quite long. His greatest objective is to set forth a “Model”, the tapestry against which medieval art was painted. As one could point to Freud as a thread in the tapestry of the 20th century, so Lewis chooses those cultural influencers whose thoughts made their way in to numerous areas of Medieval life, whether or not their works were or remain widely read. The same conversational ease with which Lewis wrote apologetics is here. In the preface he says, “Frequent researches ad hoc sadly impair receptive reading, so that sensitive people may even come to regard scholarship as a baleful thing which is always taking you out of the literature itself. My hope was that if a tolerable (though very incomplete) outfit were acquired beforehand and taken along with one, it might lead in.” The obvious mastery of material combined with the ability to teach helps Lewis complete his objectives admirably.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Graychin

    People forget that Lewis was a scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature. He did not spend all his time writing installments of the Narnia saga or volumes of Christian apologetics. He also taught and then wrote books like An Experiment in Criticism, Studies in Words and the present title, which attempts, of all things, to recreate for the sympathetic reader the medieval universe, the perspective and mental furniture (if you will) of our ancestors. I consider this a profound and delightful bo People forget that Lewis was a scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature. He did not spend all his time writing installments of the Narnia saga or volumes of Christian apologetics. He also taught and then wrote books like An Experiment in Criticism, Studies in Words and the present title, which attempts, of all things, to recreate for the sympathetic reader the medieval universe, the perspective and mental furniture (if you will) of our ancestors. I consider this a profound and delightful book. I could barely set it down and I stayed up late several nights in a row reading it. I had previously read Plato’s Timaeus and I had read Virgil and I had even read (and perhaps was one of the few these days to enjoy) Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy; I had also read my share of Dante and Spenser and Malory, even the Cloud of Unknowing and a healthy dose of Aquinas; so I thought I had a sort of grip on the subject matter already, but Lewis managed to surprise me wonderfully. This is one of those rare books that gives you another pair of eyes. It is not possible to read it with care and to step outside on a clear night and look up at the stars in the same old way ever again. This is a book to read and re-read with gratitude. It is one of the best things Lewis wrote.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Father Nick

    A recent article by Stratford Caldecott on The Imaginative Conservative blog got me intrigued about this book: a work published by CS Lewis' within his academic specialty of medieval and renaissance literature. I was aware this book existed, but recent forays into classical educational models sparked an interest in being able to approach literary works of the past with a good sense of the "mental furniture" that ordinary members of past audiences possessed. While I was more or less familiar with A recent article by Stratford Caldecott on The Imaginative Conservative blog got me intrigued about this book: a work published by CS Lewis' within his academic specialty of medieval and renaissance literature. I was aware this book existed, but recent forays into classical educational models sparked an interest in being able to approach literary works of the past with a good sense of the "mental furniture" that ordinary members of past audiences possessed. While I was more or less familiar with the basic concept of a geocentric universe surrounded by spheres of increasing ontological importance, I've nowhere else encountered such an interesting and succinct exposition of the pre-enlightenment worldview. Part of what makes this so interesting is that it is a sympathetic exposition. Certainly, Lewis does not advocate returning to these perspectives as an alternative to contemporary astrophysics, but he does offer reasons for why letting the same spirit of wonder and enchantment inform us now is a good idea. Furthermore, he also does a very convincing job of dispelling the notion that "The medievals thought to universe to be like that, but we know it to be like this". Contemporary mathematical descriptions of the universe present a very different sort of "explanation" than the medieval worldview did, as Lewis explains in the following passage from the Epilogue: "The nineteenth century still held the belief that by inferences from our sense-experience (improved by instruments) we could 'know' the ultimate physical reality more or less as, by maps, pictures, and travel-books, a man can 'know' a country he has not visited; and that in both cases the 'truth' would be a sort of mental replica of the thing itself. Philosophers might have disquieting comments to make on this conception; but scientists and plain men did not much attend to them. Already, to be sure, mathematics were the idiom in which many of the sciences spoke. But I do not think it was doubted that there was a concrete reality about which the mathematics held good; distinguishable from the mathematics as a heap of apples is from the process of counting them. We knew indeed that it was in some respects not adequately imaginable; quantities and distances if either very small or very great could not be visualized. But, apart from that, we hope that ordinary imagination and conception could grasp it. We should then have through mathematics a knowledge not merely mathematical. We should be like the man coming to know about a foreign country without visiting it. He learns about the mountains from carefully studying the contour lines on a map. But his knowledge is not a knowledge of contour lines. The real knowledge is achieved when these enable him to say 'That would be an easy ascent', 'This is a dangerous precipice', 'A would not be visible from B', 'These woods and waters must make a pleasant valley'. In going beyond the contour lines to such conclusions he is (if he knows how to read a map) getting nearer to the reality. It would be very different if someone said to him (and was believed) 'But it is the contour lines themselves that are the fullest reality you can get. In turning away from them to these other statements you are getting further from the reality, not nearer. All those ideas about "real" rocks and slopes and views are merely a metaphor or a parable, permissible as a concession to the weakness of those who can't understand contour lines, but misleading if they are taken literally'. And this, if I understand the situation, is just what has now happened as regards the physical sciences. The mathematics are now the nearest to the reality we can get. Anything imaginable, even anything that can be manipulated by ordinary (that is, non-mathematical) conceptions, far from being a further truth to which mathematics were the avenue, is mere analogy, a concession to our weakness. Without a parable modern physics speaks not to the multitudes. Even among themselves, when they attempt to verbalize their findings, the scientists begin to speak of this as making 'models'. But these 'models' are not, like model ships, small-scale replicas of the reality, Sometimes they illustrate this or that aspect of it by an analogy. Sometimes, they do not illustrate but merely suggest, like the sayings of the mystics. An expression such as 'the curvature of space' is strictly comparable to the old definition of God as 'a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere'. Both succeed in suggesting; each does so by offering what is, on the level of our ordinary thinking, nonsense." It is just this sort of writing, the vivid analogies that shed so much light, Lewis' delightful style and insight, that make this book such a worthwhile endeavor. Nowhere else is this more clear than in his description of the understanding of angels that prior ages possessed. Beginning with the Celestial Hierarchy of Pseudo-Dionysius, Lewis traces the connection between the choirs of angels and the heavenly spheres (viz. the orbit of each of the planets)--"Each sphere, or something resident in each sphere, is a conscious and intellectual being, moved by 'intellectual love' of God". This concept is played out in literary form in Lewis Space Trilogy, particularly in Perelandra where the "spirit" of Venus and Mars are present on the crowning of the First Parents of Perelandra. If you have ever had an interest in understanding how angels were understood prior to the chubby babies of the Romantic era, Lewis would provide you with an excellent starting point. Despite the immense erudition of this scholarly introduction, I can't help but be most thankful for the passages where Lewis sets aside the academic tone and shifts into the imaginative. He describes what it was like for a medieval person to walk outside at night and look up at the stars, equipped with a highly developed and extremely delightful set of concepts that are both far more different and far more similar to ours than I ever understood before. It is this ability to not just dissect his subject but rather sympathetically enter into the perspective of another age that makes this work so worthwhile, and such an excellent example of Lewis' genius. Imagine what it would have been like to be his student! A largely under-appreciated work. Do yourself a favor, and take a nighttime stroll with the good professor.

  11. 5 out of 5

    G.M. Burrow

    “The old Model delights me as I believe it delighted our ancestors," says Lewis. "Few constructions of the imagination seem to me to have combined splendor, sobriety, and coherence in the same degree…. [But] I agree. It was not true" (216). This was a huge hurdle for me. I could enjoy this book and its explosively eye-opening key, Michael Ward's Planet Narnia, all day and revel in the symbolism. But is it true? No. Bummer. Instant deflation. If it isn't true, what's the point? If Jupiter isn't r “The old Model delights me as I believe it delighted our ancestors," says Lewis. "Few constructions of the imagination seem to me to have combined splendor, sobriety, and coherence in the same degree…. [But] I agree. It was not true" (216). This was a huge hurdle for me. I could enjoy this book and its explosively eye-opening key, Michael Ward's Planet Narnia, all day and revel in the symbolism. But is it true? No. Bummer. Instant deflation. If it isn't true, what's the point? If Jupiter isn't really the glorious high king and the Moon has nothing to do with silver and Mercury doesn't actually love fleet dispatch and beautiful words, why bother? I'd been duped. I'd been suckered into stepping over the bounds of appropriate, rational enjoyment of fiction. Only reality, the truth, could have my wild appreciation. Lewis neatly smacks this folly upside the head. Why did I need the Model to be true in order to be a fan? Because I'm a modern. I was comparing the medieval Model to the current scientific model which I (does a fish know he's wet?) of course "knew" to be true. But today's science is just another model—limited, imperfect—and will also be replaced one day. "We can no longer dismiss the change of Models as a simple progress from error to truth," Lewis points out. "No model is a catalogue of ultimate realities, and none is a mere fantasy… I think [the modern model] is more likely to change when, and because, far-reaching changes in the mental temper of our descendants demand that it should" (222-23). That clinched it for me. The lasting value of the medieval Model derives not from mere beauty; I care too much about truth to be satisfied with raw aesthetics. Rather, I see value once I realize that all models are mere descriptions. None are pure fiction, but none encompass all the facts either. They are like poems, paragraphs, songs about history: they each describe reality without being reality itself. Hence we must stay humble and admit that modern science does NOT know or explain or even describe everything sufficiently. In this seat of humility, we’re in a position to appreciate yesterday’s Model the same way we appreciate Jane Austen or the Book of Kells or beautiful Grecian robes: not because they are still in fashion, but because they are beautiful and are part of our history, our heritage, in every way. Since we will always be limited to a finite Model, we can delight in all finite Models—especially one such as this, in beauty, order, and intricacy so like the cosmos it describes.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Brittany Petruzzi

    Mr. Schlect gave me my ticket for the medievalism train back in sophomore year. Had I known then where this train would lead me and what a crazy ride it was, I may have declined to climb aboard. Now that I’m here, I might as well enjoy it and in The Discarded Image Lewis does a good job of helping me out. Never has there been a better explanation in literature of why the Dark Ages weren’t actually dark. Lewis explains, in vibrant prose, how Medievalism was a natural outgrowth of Classicism. Moder Mr. Schlect gave me my ticket for the medievalism train back in sophomore year. Had I known then where this train would lead me and what a crazy ride it was, I may have declined to climb aboard. Now that I’m here, I might as well enjoy it and in The Discarded Image Lewis does a good job of helping me out. Never has there been a better explanation in literature of why the Dark Ages weren’t actually dark. Lewis explains, in vibrant prose, how Medievalism was a natural outgrowth of Classicism. Modern man has the tendency to reject new ideas, old ideas, or foreign ideas until they are proved true. A sort of guilty until proven innocent ethic. The medievals, on the other hand, were unwilling to rule out any idea unless it was successfully proven false. The result is what we see as superstition or fanciful thinking, but in reality it’s more of a wary agnosticism. For example, modern men would prefer to say that faeries don’t exist. Why? Because it’s only those crazy superstitious ancients and writers of “fairy tales” who tell us they do. What’s more, no one’s yet proven it to them personally. No doubt the greatest affront. The medieval, on the other hand, would rather err on the side of caution. With all that’s been written about faeries across all the ages, it’s a much wiser thing to say they might exist than to be punished by one for disbelief. So the medievals—-far from being superstitious kooks—-were organizers, arrangers, cataloguers, and critique-ers of the works that came before and we should not snub our noses at them simply because of chronology.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Preston Blakeley

    Lewis the scholar is most prevalent here, reminding us that chronological snobbery is rubbish and there is much to learn from the Medievals. My understanding of the “Middle Ages” was heretofore limited to what is often naively imagined of the “Dark Ages,” an epoch assumed to exist under a shadowy canopy of ignorance. But this could not be further from the truth, for we moderns are certainly at fault for the very ignorance we assume on those who come before us.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tweedledum

    The next best thing to sitting at the feet of a great teacher in the classroom is to read his distilled thought. Here in "the discarded image" is contained what were perhaps a series of fascinating lectures. To be sure Lewis assumes his reader is familiar with the texts he cites and is writing more for his students and colleagues than for the layman, but I certainly found much to ponder on even though my knowledge of Chaucer and Mallory, for example is pitiful and many other references meant not The next best thing to sitting at the feet of a great teacher in the classroom is to read his distilled thought. Here in "the discarded image" is contained what were perhaps a series of fascinating lectures. To be sure Lewis assumes his reader is familiar with the texts he cites and is writing more for his students and colleagues than for the layman, but I certainly found much to ponder on even though my knowledge of Chaucer and Mallory, for example is pitiful and many other references meant nothing at all to me. I was inspired to read because of Dr Michael Ward's signposting in The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens and was richly rewarded for reading the book in it's entirety rather than just dipping into particular chapters. In the final chapter one marvels once again at the depth of Lewis' scholarship and knowledge as he skins lightly yet insightfully over the evolution of evolution in his summing up of the evolution of story-telling and its relation to "truth"

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This is a fairly niche book, so probably not one I'll widely recommend (but I'll know it when I find the right reader who will benefit from this book!) I've been worried lately about how easily we become dismissive about the laughable "scientific" ideas of our ancestors. Thanks to our advancements with lenses and technology, we can see ever smaller and ever larger and farther away phenomena and this gives us a clearer view of how the world works; but if we forget that much of our scientific unde This is a fairly niche book, so probably not one I'll widely recommend (but I'll know it when I find the right reader who will benefit from this book!) I've been worried lately about how easily we become dismissive about the laughable "scientific" ideas of our ancestors. Thanks to our advancements with lenses and technology, we can see ever smaller and ever larger and farther away phenomena and this gives us a clearer view of how the world works; but if we forget that much of our scientific understand is just a theory (and a theory that might well be disproved and mocked by even more knowledgable generations to come!), we might be tempted to see ourselves as in a position to mock those who came before us. It's not hard to find writers and thinkers who applaud us for how advanced we are; Lewis (and Chesterton--see The Everlasting Man) are those rare thinkers who remind us to appreciate the elegance and complexity of the old models that laid the foundation for our current models. Though we may have "discarded" those models, Lewis thinks it worth spending time thinking about the models medievals used to explain how outer space worked, how our bodies interacted with our souls, and how our virtues were developed (among other things). Each chapter depicts a medieval model in just enough detail to help us appreciate their thoughtfulness and, at least for me, reminds me that our models are usually built on assumptions and theories which reflect our own biases. Or as Lewis puts it: "Our model reflects the prevalent psychology of an age almost as much as it reflects the state of that age's knowledge" (222). After all, "nature gives most of her evidence in answers to the questions we ask her" (223). I was fascinated by his explanation of medieval astronomy as being governed by a "kindly enclyning" rather than by obeying laws (which is our contemporary metaphor.) I loved how the medievals anthropomorphized everything--giving each planet character qualities that reflect human tendencies that be used either for good or bad purposes. I loved the questions they asked that I had never thought to ask, like How can the ethereal soul act upon physical matter? (Their idea was the "spirit" which was just sufficiently material to act on body but so fine it could be influenced by the immaterial soul. How elegant an explanation is that?) Or the distinctions they made between the Rational soul and the Sensitive soul, how they divided the materials of the world not into elements but into categories (existence = stones, existence w/ growth = vegetables, existence w/ growth and sensation = animals, existence w/ growth, sensation, and reason = humans). I love the idea of their categories and the way it filled the earth with poetic possibility. I envy their system in some ways, because we lack such a coherent theory about how humans interact with the world around us, and we certainly lack any sort of consensus on how best to educate the human mind and develop the human soul. Their model may not be best, but at least it is a model. I could go on. I took notes. Lewis' ideas are going with me and will inform how I read Chaucer and Shakespeare and a whole host of others. Lewis' perspective gives context and a solid does of intellectual humility that will make it harder to dismiss older models and easier to hold my current models with a healthy does of skepticism. After all, even my models are built on the shoulders of those who went before us, those who knew more about the world first-hand, and they are subject to change in the hands of those who go after us.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I know that this book is about a very specific topic (which might seem irrelevant to most people in our modern era), but it is also about PARADIGM, and this is a big, timeless theme. I can honestly say that this is one of those books whose "big idea" has informed my way of thinking about all of life in general, to a surprising degree. The book itself is a challenging read. You must put on your thinking cap from time to time. But hang in there with it, because he summarizes well towards the end, I know that this book is about a very specific topic (which might seem irrelevant to most people in our modern era), but it is also about PARADIGM, and this is a big, timeless theme. I can honestly say that this is one of those books whose "big idea" has informed my way of thinking about all of life in general, to a surprising degree. The book itself is a challenging read. You must put on your thinking cap from time to time. But hang in there with it, because he summarizes well towards the end, and the last chapter (or 2 or 3) are worth the effort. This subject (medieval lit in particular) was a first love of Lewis, and what he spent most of his life teaching. You catch a little bit of that spirit in this book (and if you love Lewis, this is almost like sitting in on his university classes, which is a bit of a kick!). This is a book about how we find meaning... how we see and explain the world around us... and why we must be careful about clinging to these "images" that we construct for ourselves. Lewis sees and communicates his admiration of the way that these fragile "lenses" worked so long for so many, holding together a culture for an era. I think that he does a good job of communicating the beauty and wisdom of a culture that we today do not spend much time or effort attempting to understand. It is easy to dismiss former patterns of thinking, after "enlightenment" comes along... but Lewis reminds us that we ALL have broken lenses. Future generations will surely be studying our own "discarded images." So, then... how shall we live? What wisdom can we learn from studying those who have lived before us? This is one of the reasons we study history at all, and if you can find a history professor who makes it all relevant and interesting, all the better. Lewis' lived in the era of modernism. By taking a peek into the "lenses" of men like Lewis and GK Chesterton, we can learn a lot about our own "postmodern" world (they saw us coming!). Books like this one help us do just that. I would suggest reading this with his fiction work, Til We Have Faces. Till We Have Faces. I think Till We Have Faces is possibly his best fiction work (although of course I do love The Chronicles of Narnia!). Although the setting is located in an ancient, pagan culture (rather than the Middle Ages or Renaissance), ) it seems to flesh out the theme of The Discarded Image (how an imperfectly formed paradigm eventually fails, and lenses fall off, and suddenly life - and cultures - shift and change). In my mind, these two books are woven together, and each one helped me to make better sense of the other.

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

    I am taking two things away from this book: 1. I am done with CS Lewis! Of course, I mean that in a good way. I love Lewis but after reading nearly all of his books, I think I've reached the end of his catalog. There's a reason this one is little known; it does not possess much popular appeal. Other than reading his Letters one day and rereading his works, I think this is the end. 2. This book demonstrates Lewis' brilliance as an academic. I heard someone say once they thought Lewis is overrated. I am taking two things away from this book: 1. I am done with CS Lewis! Of course, I mean that in a good way. I love Lewis but after reading nearly all of his books, I think I've reached the end of his catalog. There's a reason this one is little known; it does not possess much popular appeal. Other than reading his Letters one day and rereading his works, I think this is the end. 2. This book demonstrates Lewis' brilliance as an academic. I heard someone say once they thought Lewis is overrated. This book shows that had Lewis wanted to be a world-class medieval scholar (though perhaps he was anyway) he could have been. Of all the Lewis books I've read, this one seems the most academic. It is a far cry from his popular-level reflections on faith and life. Here we see Lewis the academic at his best. Honestly, it probably deserves more than 3 stars. I give it only 3 simply in comparison to his other books which I consistently give 4 or 5. If Lewis was only a medieval historian and this was his only work I may have given it a 4. Though, if Lewis was that then I probably would never have read it. Placing it in the context of the rest of his work, I give it a 3. That said, if you're really into medieval Christianity and literature and theology or philosophy then definitely check this one out!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark Adderley

    Possibly the best introduction to the thought of the Middle Ages available. The only problem with it is how infectious Lewis' enthusiasm is. I hurried off to the library to check out the "South English Legendary" on Lewis' recommendation in this book, and found it unremittingly dull. And I like Middle English literature! Possibly the best introduction to the thought of the Middle Ages available. The only problem with it is how infectious Lewis' enthusiasm is. I hurried off to the library to check out the "South English Legendary" on Lewis' recommendation in this book, and found it unremittingly dull. And I like Middle English literature!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brian Robbins

    This book warrants a thorough review. Sadly, it's not going to get one here, more a few words of admiration and a smattering of a few of the author’s own words. Lewis in his professional capacity is always at his best. His words about the nature of the best medieval authors’ work sums up his own writing about his academic interests. “The author’s basic attitude remains free from strain or posturing. He [wishes to] honour a theme which for him … ought to be honoured.” Lewis provides in this book, a This book warrants a thorough review. Sadly, it's not going to get one here, more a few words of admiration and a smattering of a few of the author’s own words. Lewis in his professional capacity is always at his best. His words about the nature of the best medieval authors’ work sums up his own writing about his academic interests. “The author’s basic attitude remains free from strain or posturing. He [wishes to] honour a theme which for him … ought to be honoured.” Lewis provides in this book, as elsewhere in his academic work, a profound depth of knowledge and thought on his subject, but he carries it lightly as he presents his topic to a much less knowledgeable audience. His style is never dull or desiccated. His subject matter is well chosen and ranges over a great breadth of material. He communicates his huge enthusiasm for his subject matter to the reader. “I have made no serious effort to hide the fact that the old Model delights me as I believe it delighted our ancestors. Few constructions of the imagination seem to me to have combined splendour, sobriety, and coherence in the same degree. It is possible that some readers have been itching to remind me that it had a serious defect; it was not true. I agree.” I read a long time ago, Tillyard’s book “The Elizabethan World Picture”, which largely addresses the same subject area. I very much enjoyed it and gained much from it, but it had the feel of a text-book style of introduction – a knowledgeable, well written overview of the topic which provided just enough detail to give the reader a diagram of the structure of the assumed world model. Lewis on the other hand, while still investigating the overall structure, darts and delves into some of the complexities of the highways and byways of his topic. He pulls in all sorts of authors, some of whom I’ve heard of but never read, some of whom I’ve never heard of let alone read. He does not try to give any simple guide to their writings, but engages with their content with huge enthusiasm and in a way that illuminates so clearly the subject matter he’s writing about. His enthusiasm is catching, leaving a desire to read not only many of the authors he quotes, but also to take down and dig into his other literary writings. Wonderful book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    In his chapter on the heavens, Lewis wonders if there was something about the mistaken-but-beautiful medieval model that was so perfect that it was claustrophobic. Everything made sense and was in a neat little box, so that you could never really get outdoors, in a sense. So his next chapter is about escaping that claustrophobia; it's a chapter on fairies (making the world mysterious again). Cf. Alexandre Koyré's claim (1957) that moving from "from the closed world to the infinite universe" is i In his chapter on the heavens, Lewis wonders if there was something about the mistaken-but-beautiful medieval model that was so perfect that it was claustrophobic. Everything made sense and was in a neat little box, so that you could never really get outdoors, in a sense. So his next chapter is about escaping that claustrophobia; it's a chapter on fairies (making the world mysterious again). Cf. Alexandre Koyré's claim (1957) that moving from "from the closed world to the infinite universe" is immensely disturbing. Lecture here.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Manuel Alfonseca

    This is the fifth time I have read this amazing book, and as always, I have found new food for thought. It has even given me material for another post in my blog on popular science: http://populscience.blogspot.com/2017... This is the fifth time I have read this amazing book, and as always, I have found new food for thought. It has even given me material for another post in my blog on popular science: http://populscience.blogspot.com/2017...

  22. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Excellent. World class.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    If this book doesn't make you love Medieval studies, I don't know what will. If this book doesn't make you love Medieval studies, I don't know what will.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    This book ranks as one of the later books of C.S. Lewis, and certainly one of his less well-known books, but in retrospect, looking back on his entire career as a prolific writer and as an intellectual [1], this book must surely be reckoned by those who are familiar with it as one of the most important books in his oeuvre because of the way in which this volume brings together so many of the aspects of Lewis’ thinking and, perhaps even more importantly, the influences that formed his own writing This book ranks as one of the later books of C.S. Lewis, and certainly one of his less well-known books, but in retrospect, looking back on his entire career as a prolific writer and as an intellectual [1], this book must surely be reckoned by those who are familiar with it as one of the most important books in his oeuvre because of the way in which this volume brings together so many of the aspects of Lewis’ thinking and, perhaps even more importantly, the influences that formed his own writing. While on the one hand this book is ostensibly a work introducing some of the more obscure but important writers and sources of the medieval scientific worldview as it made its presence known in the literature of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it also has a lot to say, albeit implicitly, about the writing of C.S. Lewis himself. Specifically, this book demonstrates the intellectual debt that Lewis owed to the poets and philosophers of the neo-Platonic and Hellenistic Christian traditions of late antiquity and to the layered and highly mannered perspective of the High Middle Ages and later, and to the way that his own writings were immensely layered and also with the perspective of filling the empty spaces with various intermediaries between God and man, and taking with the utmost seriousness discarded worldviews that are beautiful to behold, elegant in their complicated machinery, unfamiliar in their alien perspective, and not strictly true for all of their beauty and elegance. In terms of its contents and structure, this book is organized in a topical and somewhat chronological sense. Lewis is clearly selective in his choice of which writers to focus on—at slightly more than 200 pages, this book is definitely an introduction and not in any way an exhaustive discussion of the writing of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, which would be so bloated and unweidly as to be virtually unreadable by any but the most masochistic of scholars. The book begins with a discussion of the Medieval situation, where Lewis attempts to reconstruct the medieval world in its glory and reality for those moderns who see the world through vastly different eyes. He then, rather sensibly, discusses his reservations to broad and sweeping generalizations that will inevitably be made in the course of the introduction, as a way of warning the reader not to take his words or claims more broadly than he makes them. The next two chapters then examine various selected materials from the classical period and late antiquity, which Lewis calls the ‘seminal’ period. In the classical period he speaks of the Somnium Scipionis by Cicero, Lucan, Satitus’ and Claudian’s view of Lady Natura, and the De Deo Socratis by Apuleius. For late antiquity, Lewis chooses to focus on the writings of Chalcidius, Macrobius, Pseudo-Dionysius, and Boethius. Most readers, unless they are extremely well-read in the writings of the late Roman and early Medieval world, will be unfamiliar with almost all of these writers. After having examined various early influences for the writing of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Lewis then speaks about the parts of the universe and the operations and inhabitants of the heavens, like angels and demons, spends a short chapter talking about the Longaevi, the longlivers of the world of fairy like elves, fey, dwarves, and gnomes, and then more lengthy chapter talking about earth and her inhabitants like beasts, the human soul, the rational soul, the sensitive and vegetable soul, the relationship of the soul and body, the human body and the human past, and the seven liberal arts of medieval education (the trivium of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric and, very briefly, the quadrivium of astronomy, music, geometry, and arithmetic, the first of which Lewis spends some time on and the remaining three he deals with briefly. The work then finishes with a discussion of the pervasive influence of the Medieval model on the writing of later people, including, at least implicitly, Lewis himself [2]. In reading a this book, the reader will likely be left with a variety of feelings. On the one hand, this book is extremely complicated, especially if one reads this book with at least one eye towards understanding the way that it gives various clues about the importance of the medieval model on Lewis’ own writings, especially the importance of the planets as conceived by medieval poets in Lewis’ own poetry as well as his space trilogy and the Chronicles of Narnia. On another level, the book is a sign of the author’s immense and obscure reading, impressive but without showing off too visibly, although the obscurity of the materials discussed is likely to put the reader in the disadvantageous position of not being familiar with the writings and thus dependent either upon what Lewis quotes or refers to from them or in the equally frustrating position of trying to find available translations of this immensely obscure material to read for themselves. Those readers who have limited interest in the thinking of Hellenistic Christians or outright pagan poets and philosophers, and who have no tolerance of the enduring pagan influence on writers and thinkers who consider themselves to be Christians will likely have little interest in this book’s examination of the persistence of pagan thinking within the ‘Christian’ medieval worldview, nor with Lewis’ obvious admiration of such heathen thought. Although this is a greatly important work in understanding Lewis’ thought and the influences upon his thought, it is likely to be a work that deters most readers, making its obscurity as readily understood as it is lamentable. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... [2] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  25. 5 out of 5

    D.J. Edwardson

    The Discarded Image is a more scholarly affair than most Lewis books. The keen prose and deep insights into the medieval concept of the universe are engaging, though, and make it more palatable for modern readers less versed in the source material. One lasting impression I left the book with was the poverty of my education. Lewis is so well-versed in his subject that I found my head spinning on more than one occasion as he effortlessly quoted from source after source. Still, his main points are cl The Discarded Image is a more scholarly affair than most Lewis books. The keen prose and deep insights into the medieval concept of the universe are engaging, though, and make it more palatable for modern readers less versed in the source material. One lasting impression I left the book with was the poverty of my education. Lewis is so well-versed in his subject that I found my head spinning on more than one occasion as he effortlessly quoted from source after source. Still, his main points are clear: the medieval world view has a beauty to it that is often lost on us simply because much of it was not true. They saw the sky and starry host as fixed powers, a cosmic play of good and evil. They saw human temperament as influenced by various humors resulting from different mixings of the four basic elements (earth, water, air, and fire). Science has come along to say it's all dust and atoms, synapses as genes. And yet, in the end, Lewis tells us that though he himself is enchanted by the "medieval model", as he calls it, what he is really after is to look at all models with less interest in their supposed veracity and more in what the model tells us both about those who created and embraced it and ourselves as outside observers of it. For, he opines, it may be that our present "scientific" concepts will give way to a new model at some point. But if so, it will be more from the temperament of those who create it than from any brute facts. He is not saying it will be without evidence to support it, only that the evidence will always be limited by the nature of the questions the model seeks to answer. A very helpful insight. One of many Lewis has to offer here. Making this book well worth the effort and one that will bear many re-readings for those seeking to understand who we are as men and moderns and why we think the way we do.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    “Historically as well as cosmically, medieval man stood at the foot of the stairway; looking up, he felt delight. The backward, like the upward, glance exhilarated him with majestic spectacle, and humility was rewarded with the pleasures of admiration.” P.185 A lot of this book went way over my head, but what I could understand was massively helpful and enlightening. My reading of the Divine Comedy is going to be greatly helped by this book. “The laugh turns not against the Middle Ages, but agains “Historically as well as cosmically, medieval man stood at the foot of the stairway; looking up, he felt delight. The backward, like the upward, glance exhilarated him with majestic spectacle, and humility was rewarded with the pleasures of admiration.” P.185 A lot of this book went way over my head, but what I could understand was massively helpful and enlightening. My reading of the Divine Comedy is going to be greatly helped by this book. “The laugh turns not against the Middle Ages, but against ourselves.” (P.147).

  27. 5 out of 5

    James

    The worldview of the Medieval mind set forth simply and powerfully. It dispels many myths the modern age has of the beliefs of the people of the Middle ages. An enjoyable and very enlightening read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dane

    A concise introduction to medieval literature. Interesting to see some scholarly work from the well-known apologist and fiction writer. That being said, the work can be considered both a travel-guide to medieval literature and a sustained criticism of the belief in the medieval "Dark Ages". Medieval man, according to Lewis, was an appreciator of categorization and systematizing. Authority was a powerful force, but not due to a complacent incuriosity, but humility resulting from respect for the k A concise introduction to medieval literature. Interesting to see some scholarly work from the well-known apologist and fiction writer. That being said, the work can be considered both a travel-guide to medieval literature and a sustained criticism of the belief in the medieval "Dark Ages". Medieval man, according to Lewis, was an appreciator of categorization and systematizing. Authority was a powerful force, but not due to a complacent incuriosity, but humility resulting from respect for the knowledge of their ancestors. Contradictions in ancient authors were only apparent and were to be resolved. One passage in particular that sticks out is Macrobius's theological extrapolation from one parenthetical remark in Cicero. Lewis begins the work with less well-known classical authors whose works contributed to the medieval model and moves on to a discussion of the model itself and its views on the Heavens, the Earth, and finally, man. Throughout the work, he strives to show that the assumptions underlying the Medieval model are no more naive than many of the assumptions supporting our view of the world. Probably Lewis's best work, but not his most original. Given his appreciation of the medieval man's humility, however, I doubt any such charge would really bother him.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barry

    I skipped this one during my year of CS Lewis in 2014. Medieval literature sounded pretty boring, but Planet Narnia inspired me to give it a try. It was interesting to read him discuss a subject in his field of expertise. After all, he was not actually a theologian or philosopher, he was a professor of Classics and Medieval Literature. This book gives a glimpse of what it might have been like to take one of his classes. He gives a fascinating explanation of the Medieval Model of the universe. Of I skipped this one during my year of CS Lewis in 2014. Medieval literature sounded pretty boring, but Planet Narnia inspired me to give it a try. It was interesting to read him discuss a subject in his field of expertise. After all, he was not actually a theologian or philosopher, he was a professor of Classics and Medieval Literature. This book gives a glimpse of what it might have been like to take one of his classes. He gives a fascinating explanation of the Medieval Model of the universe. Often you hear it said that pre-Enlightenment man regarded Earth (and Man) as the center of the universe, but actually the Earth was at the lowest level of a grand hierarchy. I only wish he would have expounded just a bit more in the epilogue.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    A really enjoyable book to read and a great introduction for anyone who would like to learn a bit more about the medieval world view. Lewis can be a bit too eager to create a single "Model" for all of medieval literature, which can over-simplify things, but overall its absolutely worth a read. A really enjoyable book to read and a great introduction for anyone who would like to learn a bit more about the medieval world view. Lewis can be a bit too eager to create a single "Model" for all of medieval literature, which can over-simplify things, but overall its absolutely worth a read.

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