The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature by C.S. Lewis, Canto/Cambridge Press, Cambridge, 1964 (Canto Edition 1994), 232pp; finished 5/30/8; rating 10

Mindblowing. There are only about three or four C.S. Lewis books that I haven’t read, and this was one of them until recently. I have had it in my library for years, but was challenged to read it by Michael Ward’s referencing of it in his book, Planet Narnia (see below).

I must say that this is my favorite of Lewis’ nonfiction, and possibly my favorite of all Lewis’ books. More than anything else Lewis (who is here writing in his field of expertise) helps the reader think like a Medievalist would have thought. Referencing an amazing array of Medieval and Renaissance sources, he shows us not only what our forefathers thought, but also how they thought. Seriously, I will not read the Bible the same way after having read this book!

Lewis overviews the significant texts and authors (sounds boring, but is wonderfully insightful), shows how their thinking developed from the Classical (Greek and Roman) era, then gives particular attention to what Medieval Europeans believed about the heavens (planets, stars, etc.), angels, and earthbound creatures (from animals to humans to hobgoblins to demons and angels).

More than anything else, Lewis draws for us the model of Medieval thinking, which, even though now outmoded and out grown, is a beautiful thing to behold, amazing in its consistency. This book is not for everyone, but for folk that enjoy the history of thought, this one is stunning! I look forward to re-reading it soon.


2 responses to “THE DISCARDED IMAGE

  1. I finished reading _Planet Narnia_, which I really liked; now I must add this one to my list. I am very interested in the Medieval model, to which I got exposed in my recent “Philosophy of Man” class, where we focused on Aristotle, Aquinas, and Descartes (with a little Plato and Heidegger thrown in a the beginning and end). In that class, I got a sense of how much was discarded by Descartes. Although you can say that with Descartes, the door was opened for modern technology, much of what it means to be human was lost as well.

  2. Thanks, Kenneth and Greg, I see I shall have to read this too! (One of the few of Lewis’s I haven’t yet read.) Thanks also for the review of ‘One hundred years of solitude’, another I’d like to read. I once worked out I averaged 50 books a year, but now I don’t think it matters how many or few books you read, just read for love and as you are drawn to certain books at certain times. I could never regret endlessly re-reading either; children especially love to re-read, and adults do too. Will you tell it to me again, Aslan? Indeed yes, I will tell it to you for years and years …

    With very best wishes,


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