“If you ever doubted the sheer genius of C.S. Lewis, this book will quickly catapult you into the ‘He’s a genius’ camp. Michael Ward’s discovery of what was hiding in plain sight for six decades is nothing less than THE literary discovery of our time. It is all almost unbelievable, and yet it’s obviously true and therefore genuinely staggering. There’s even a superb BBC documentary on it called ‘The Narnia Code.’”
About the Book
For over half a century, scholars have laboured to show that C. S. Lewis’s famed but apparently disorganised Chronicles of Narnia have an underlying symbolic coherence, pointing to such possible unifying themes as the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins, and the seven books of Spenser’s Faerie Queene. None of these explanations has won general acceptance and the structure of Narnia’s symbolism has remained a mystery.
Michael Ward has finally solved the enigma. In Planet Narnia he demonstrates that medieval cosmology, a subject which fascinated Lewis throughout his life, provides the imaginative key to the seven novels. Drawing on the whole range of Lewis’s writings (including previously unpublished drafts of the Chronicles), Ward reveals how the Narnia stories were designed to express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets – – Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn – – planets which Lewis described as “spiritual symbols of permanent value” and “especially worthwhile in our own generation”. Using these seven symbols, Lewis secretly constructed the Chronicles so that in each book the plot-line, the ornamental details, and, most important, the portrayal of the Christ-figure of Aslan, all serve to communicate the governing planetary personality. The cosmological theme of each Chronicle is what Lewis called ‘the kappa element in romance’, the atmospheric essence of a story, everywhere present but nowhere explicit. The reader inhabits this atmosphere and thus imaginatively gains connaître knowledge of the spiritual character which the tale was created to embody. Planet Narnia is a ground-breaking study that will provoke a major revaluation not only of the Chronicles but of Lewis’s whole literary and theological outlook. Ward uncovers a much subtler writer and thinker than has previously been recognized, whose central interests were hiddenness, immanence, and knowledge by acquaintance.
About the Author
Michael Ward is Senior Research Fellow at Blackfriars Hall, University of Oxford. He is the author of the award-winning Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis and co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis. He studied English at Oxford, Theology at Cambridge, and has a Ph.D. in Divinity from St Andrews.
Ward presented the BBC1 television documentary, The Narnia Code (2009), directed and produced by the BAFTA-winning film-maker, Norman Stone. He authored an accompanying book entitled The Narnia Code: C.S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens.
Ward served as Chaplain of St Peter’s College in the University of Oxford from 2009 to 2012, and as Chaplain of Peterhouse in the University of Cambridge between 2004 and 2007. He was resident Warden of The Kilns, Lewis’s Oxford home, from 1996 to 1999.
On the fiftieth anniversary of C.S. Lewis’s death, November 22 2013, Ward unveiled a permanent national memorial to him in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey. He is the co-editor of a volume of commemorative essays marking the anniversary, entitled C.S. Lewis at Poets’ Corner (2016).