A web annotation of C. S. Lewis’s Surprised by Joy

Many readers come to C. S. Lewis’s autobiography from The Chronicles of Narnia series or Mere Christianity, eager to learn about the literary and theological titan’s upbringing. But Surprised by Joy is not an easy read for modern audiences. Although the book was published in 1955, each page is scattered with obscure Edwardian lingo, literary quotations and “public school” slang. While Lewis aims at–and usually achieves–clear prose, he assumes that his readers are familiar with English boarding school structure and slang. He also assumes that readers are encouraged, not put off, by a great wealth of literary allusions and quotes. This literary name-dropping extends through Greek, Roman and Norse prose and poetry; as well as literature in English, German, French and Russian. Even the most zealous Lewis enthusiast may falter.

This annotation aims to clear the cobwebs of history for all readers. I am an amateur Lewis enthusiast and fan of the Inklings, and I hope that these notes might be used for individual study and as well as for groups. I have assumed a command of modern English, although I have annotated particularly obscure and antiquated words. Most author names, works and quotes are annotated. Lewis’s life experiences that appear in his fictional novels in one form or another have been noted. Maps, images and art have been inserted whenever available.

Overall, the notes aim to be a springboard to understanding the factors that shaped and enraptured C. S. Lewis.

These notes are based on the Harcourt paperback edition of Surprised by Joy.

(The ideal format for these notes would be an e-book with mouse-over notes. However, unless Harcourt invites me to be the official editor of the text–or the text goes out of copyright–these notes will have to be independent from the text.)

Published in: on October 18, 2008 at 12:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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