An Experiment in Criticism Ch 4-6
An Experiment in Criticism Ch 4-6 E-mail


An Experiment in Criticism
Chapters 4-6


Chapter 4

1.  According to Lewis what does "being a word" mean?  Do you agree/disagree?  How would you define a word?

2.  Lewis lists five characteristics of the unliterary.  Do any of them seem unfair or too harsh to you?  Are any of them recognizable to you - in other words have you observed a similar characteristic in your unliterary acquaintances?

3.  Describe the Stylemonger?

4.  Toward the end of the chapter Lewis lists types of Events that appeal to the unliterary. Do you see any parallels in what is termed "genre fiction" today?  Why are Event narratives, or genre fiction, so popular?  What distinguishes the unliterary reader's enjoyment of Events and the literary reader's enjoyment of "good books"?

(Genre fiction can be defined as books that share multiple characteristics and the authors write to the convention.  Literature is freer of convention.  Genre fiction tends to be plot driven, while literature is character driven.  Examples of genre fiction include mystery, science-fiction, fantasy, romance, western, horror.)


Boojum:  From Lewis Carroll's nonsense poem "The Hunting of the Snark."  Snarks are a fictional animal species of which the boojum is a variety.

"a rose is a rose":  From Gertrude Stein's poem "Sacred Emily.'  Stein used variations of this line in other contexts and so did numerous other writers.

Mopsa:  The Clown's girlfriend in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale; a simple country girl.

First Men in the Moon (1901):  A novel by H. G. Wells about a journey to the moon by a business man and a scientist.  Once there, they discover a community of insect-like creatures.  C. S. Lewis told Roger Lancelyn Green (friend and later biographer) that it was among the best science fiction he'd read.  It's influence can be seen in Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet.

Milton's "chequered shade":  A line from John Milton's "L'Allegro" (1631).

Guy Mannering or the Astrologer:  Novel by Sir Walter Scott, original published anonymously in 1815.

John Ruskin  (1819-1900):  English art critic and social thinker.  He wrote on a wide range of subjects, such as art, myth, education, botany, and politics.  He was the Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford and started the Ruskin School of Drawing while there.

Sir Thomas Malory: (1405-1471):  Author of Morte D'Arthur, considered to be the most significant English work during the interval between Chaucer and Shakespeare.

Gallicisms:  A French phrase appearing in a work written in another language.

Helter-skelter:  In England, a carnival ride that consists of a spiral slide circling down around a high tower.

General Tilney:  A character in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey whom Catherine Morland suspects of murdering his wife.

Phèdre (1677):  A tragedy by Jean Racine.  While her husband, Thésée is away, Phèdre declares her love for Hippolyte, Thésée's son by a prior marriage.  

The Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824):  A novel by Scottish author James Hogg, originally published anonymously and considered by some to be an early work of crime fiction.

Spenser's House of Busirane:  Referring to Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.  Busirane is an evil sorcerer who holds Lady Amoret captive in his castle.

Pastoral:  A literary work dealing with shepherds and a simple rural life, often presenting an idealized rather than realistic view of the rustic.  Pastoral works date back to the Greeks and continue through Shakespeare and Milton.

Statue scene from the Winter's Tale:  Hermione is deemed dead for many years.  Paulina shows a lifelike statue of Hermione to Hermione's husband, Leontes.  While he expresses his remorse, Paulina bids the "statue" come to life.

Chapter 5

5. How does Lewis define and distinguish myth?

6.  What does he consider to be the qualities of a myth?

7.  Lewis would refer to Jesus as "myth became fact" (see essay of same title in God in the Dock) or "a true myth" (letter to Arthur Greeves, 18 Oct 1931).  These statements are sometimes misunderstood by Christians who think he is weakening the historical reality of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection.  Now that you have read this chapter on myth, how has it expanded your understanding of Lewis's characterization of Jesus as the  true myth? 

8.  How do the literary and the unliterary approach myth?  Do you enjoy reading myth?


Hesperides:  Nymphs who tended a garden in the far corner of the world.

Orpheus:  Musician and poet who tried to rescue his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld.

Demeter & Persephone:  Greek myth explaining the seasons. When Persephone is allowed to visit from the underworld, her mother, Demeter, goddess of the earth makes the plants blossom.  In the fall, when Persephone must return to the underworld, the crops die.

Balder:  A Norse god, the son of Odin and Frigg.  Considered a good god of fine character, purity and joy  Loki, the trickster, deceived Balder's blind brother into throwing a  mistletoe dart at him, and Balder was killed.

Ragnarok:  Lit. "doom of the gods."  In Norse mythology, it refers to the end of the world  It will be preceded by three consecutive winters.

Sampo:  From Finnish mythology, an object that served as a talisman.  When the Sampo was stolen, the Ilmarinen's country fell on hard times.

Gormenghast:  A series of three fantasy novels, gothic in flavor, by Mervyn Peake published in 1946-1959.  Titus Groan is the first book in the series.

Natalis Comes (1520-1582):  Latin name of an Italian historian and author of a 10-book series Mythologiae, which became the source for classical mythology in Renaissance Europe.

John Lamprière (1765-1824):  English lexicographer and scholar.  His Bibliotheca Classica became the reference for mythology and classical history.

Charles Kinglsey (1819-1875):  English novelist who wrote several books on Greek mythology for children.  Also wrote The Water Babies.

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864):  American novelist and short story writer best known for The Scarlet Letter.  He is in this discussion because of his children's books on mythology:  A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys (1852) and Tanglewood Tales for Boys and Girls (1853).

Robert Graves (1895-1985):  English poet and scholar who wrote a two-volume set of mythology titled The Greek Myths.  Also wrote the popular historical novel, I, Claudius.

Roger Lancelyn Green (1918-1987):  One of C.S. Lewis's students, fellow Inkling, and biographer.  In this context, Green is mentioned because of his children's books which were retellings of Greek, Norse, and Egyptian myths.

H.C.F.:  Highest common factor.

H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925):  Popular English author of adventure stories such as King Solomon's Mines.  Credited with starting the "lost world" genre, a subcategory of  fantasy or science fiction that features the discovery of a new world in a different time or place.

John Buchan (1875-1940):  Scottish author who also served as Governor General of Canada.  He wrote adventure novels, most notably The Thirty-Nine Steps.

Chapter 6

9.  How does Lewis define and distinguish fantasy?

10.  Why does Lewis argue that impossibility ruins the unliterary reader's enjoyment of fantasy?  What is the frustrated purpose of this reader?

11.  Do you enjoy works of fantasy?  Why or why not?


Erewhon:  Novel by Samuel Butler originally published anonymously in 1872.  An anagram on the word "nowhere."  Considered a satirical utopia and compared to Gulliver's

"The Witch of Atlas":  Poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley published posthumously in 1824 about the travels of a mythical witch.

Jurgen:  a work of fantasy by James Branch Cabell written in 1919.  A series of medieval-type adventures with a comedic twist.  Said to influence present-day author Terry Prachett.

The Crock of Gold:  1912 novel by James Stephens involving Irish folklore and gender battles told with humor.

Vera Historia [A True Story]:  A work by Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata (125-180).  Sometimes called the first piece of science fiction, it recounts a voyage to the edge of
the universe and to the inside of a whale and some of the same ground (sea) covered by the Odyssey.

"Micromegas":  Science-fiction short story by Voltaire written in 1752 about a visit to earth by two aliens from planets circling Sirius and Saturn.

Flatland:  1884 novella by Edwin A. Abbott about a two-dimensional world where the characters are geometric figures.  Intended as a satire on Victorian culture.

© 2014 by Allyson Wieland