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A Preface to Paradise Lost: Being the Ballard Matthews Lectures Delivered at University College, North Wales, 1941 Paperback – May 1 1980

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (May 1 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195003454
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195003451
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 0.9 x 13.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #58,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"An essential work in understanding both the literary approach of C.S. Lewis and the theological assumptions of Paradise Lost. Unparalleled in its conciseness."--I.S. Maclean, James Madison University

"Still the most lucid, useful, entertaining introduction to Milton's poem anyone has contrived to write. Traditional literary criticism at its best."--Lance E. Wilcox, Elmhurst College

About the Author

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) was an Irish author and scholar of mixed Irish, English, and Welsh ancestry. Lewis is known for his work on medieval literature, Christian apologetics and fiction, especially the childrens series entitled The Chronicles of Narnia and his science fiction Space Trilogy.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By F. P. Barbieri on Sept. 3 2003
Format: Paperback
Although a work of extraordinary brilliance and charm, this is not the critical last word on Milton. Lewis is brilliant almost to the point of being overwhelming on everything which is story and narrative and character; his comparison of Adam with Satan, his account of the diabolical cabinet meeting in book two, his description of what eating the apple did to Adam and Eve - the father of all bright epigrammatic wastrels meeting the mother of all [evil], selfish sentimentalists - his observation on Eve's sin, which could have been written by Chesterton, all are outstanding and hit the nail on the head so hard that it rings. And his immense learning is certainly up to the task of disentangling the intellectual background to the story - his account of the correspondence between Augustine's view of the Fall and Milton's, and his observation that both Satan and Abdiel "are good Aristotelians", show his easy, almost careless handling of vast stores of knowledge and understanding.
The problem with this otherwise superlative and certainly indispensable essay is that Lewis, taken with his vision of a common "mere Christianity" embracing Protestants, Anglicans, Catholics and Orthodox, simply misses the extent and significance of Milton's sectarian and heretical opinions. Sure, he knows that Milton was a sort of modified follower of Arius, who denied the divinity of Jesus - that is, that he stood at the outer edges of what is permissible for a Christian to believe - but he does not seem to understand that the consistently materializing imagination of Milton, that almost transforms the Trinity and the Angels into Greek Gods, was a typically Protestant and sectarian reaction against Catholic theology and especially against Thomism, with its wholly spiritual view of Angels.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jack Lamont on June 15 2003
Format: Paperback
John Milton's Paradise Lost is perhaps the most debated work in western literature. On one side you have those who say that Milton was secretly on the Devil's side. (Due to the realistic portrayal of Satan and the seemingly far off and tyrannical portrayal of God) On the other side you have those who say that Milton's sympathies were with God and the angels. (Due to the loving portrayal of the angels and mankind) C.S. Lewis was of the later camp. In 1942, he stood up against those who said otherwise.
I have a hard time labeling this as a 'preface'; Lewis was obviously writing to the learned elite at Cambridge, not to new readers of Milton. But Lewis does an excellent job of explaining Milton's worldview and how it works in Paradise Lost. His chapters on Primary and Secondary Epics, Miton and St. Augustine, and Hierarchy are EXTREMELY helpful. (Particularly the helpful to American readers is the Hierarchy chapter; we just don't understand what it means to live under and totally submit to a king or emperor.)
I highly recommend this to readers of Lewis or fans of Medieval and Renaissance literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Graham on Feb. 7 1998
Format: Paperback
This book was a pleasure to read both before and after reading PARADISE LOST. In fact, one can make a nice trilogy out of PREFACE TO PARADISE LOST, PARADISE LOST, and Lewis's PERELANDRA. Lewis's PREFACE should interest both the general reader and the specialist. Lewis gives a roadmap for working through Milton's epic poem, discussing what an epic is and why Milton chose it, for example, or why Milton used a certain style for writing; he also comments on Milton's theology, medieval hierarchy, and a number of other pertinent subjects with which the reader will probably not be overly familiar. The writing is clear, the discussion lucid and enlightening, and the subjects are interesting. This is certainly worth purchasing.
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