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Gaps in Scholarship on C.S. Lewis and other Wade Authors

15 August 2017

A few weeks ago I read a commentary on C.S. Lewis’s children’s novel Prince Caspian, which I found very helpful. You can see my review here. Now the librarian of the Marion Wade Center in Wheation, Illinois, USA, which has a large collection of material on C.S. Lewis and related authors, is appealing for people to write more such works.

Critical / annotated versions of books are a great way for a reader to have an experienced / informed guide walk them through a text. Such books contain notes in the margins or footnotes that provide context to historical references which most readers won’t know, explain complex concepts that might be outside of a reader’s range of experiences, and also interesting facts about the text like how an example is understood in British culture, or where an idea may have come from the author’s personal life. These notes are like a wise companion along the reading road, and that guidance helps readers finish the reading journey and get the most out of all the roadside attractions and truths along the way.Examples of some books in this category include: The Annotated Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, annotated by Douglas A. Anderson; The Pilgrim’s Regress by C.S. Lewis, annotated by David C. Downing; and Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, annotated by Craig M. Kibler.

Source: Mind the Gap: Where Scholarship on C.S. Lewis and other Wade Authors needs some Filling-In – Sunlit Fields

I thought the one on Prince Caspian was particularly well done. One doesn’t normally think of children’s books as requiring critical commentaries, but perhaps children’s books written by Oxford dons are an exception. Fifty years ago I read The Annotated Alice and found it very useful.

The Prince Caspian one is a commentary rather than an annotated edition, but since I had read the book several times, and once fairly recently, the commentary was sufficient to call to mind any parts of the story I had forgotten.

One of the other authors mentioned in the Sunlit Fields blog post is G.K. Chesterton and his book Orthodoxy. Something that I found quite useful for that was The London Heretics. One can appreciate a lot of what Chesterton was writing about in a general sense, but more than a century later it is easy to forget that he was referring to the doctrines of specific people who were well known in his day, but almost forgotten now.

So I hope there are scholars who will respond to this appeal. I might almost be tempted to do so myself, but then think that it would require a great deal of research, including, no doubt, some at the Marion Wade Center itself, and that even the fare to travel there is quite beyond my means. And that makes me wonder how anyone at all can afford to do such research. Blogging’s cheaper, and we still have our literary coffee klatsch once a month, which is just over the hill from us.


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