CHRISTIAN LITERARY THEORY: A BIBLIOGRAPHY

You would never know it from taking graduate courses in English in the secular academy, but there is a rich tradition of Christian thinking about literary theory which can give you a place to stand against the nihilistic epistemology and leftist rhetoric that passes for thought about literature in those circles.  For anyone who plans on graduate study in English, these are resources you need.

An an introduction, I would suggest my essays “Christian Poetics, Past and Present” and “A larger World,” listed below.  The most indispensable classic works are Sidney’s “Defense of Poesy,” Tolkien’s “Essay on Fairie Stories,” and Sayers’ The Mind of the Maker.

Anderson, Greg M.  “A Most Potent Rhetoric: C. S. Lewis, ‘Congenital Rhetorician.’”  Bruce L. Edwards, ed., C. S. Lewis: Life, Works, Legacy, 4 vols. London: Praeger, 2007: 4:195-228.

Barratt, David, Roger Pooley, & Leland Ryken, eds. The Discerning Reader: Christian Perspectives on Literature and Theory.  Leicester, England: British Intervarsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995.

Calhoun, Scott.  “C. S. Lewis as Philologist: Studies in Words.”  In Bruce L. Edwards, ed. C. S. Lewis: Life, Works, Legacy, 4 vols. London: Praeger, 2007: 4:81-98.

Carter, Margaret L.  “Sub-Creation and Lewis’s Theory of Literature.”  In Bruce L. Edwards, Jr., ed.  The Taste of the Pineapple:  Essays on C. S. Lewis as Reader, Critic, and Imaginative Writer.  Bowling Green, Oh.:  Bowling Green State Univ. Pr., 1988:  129-37.

Dockery, David S., ed.  The Challenge of Postmodernism: An Evangelical Engagement.  Wheaton: Victor Books, 1995.

Edwards, Bruce L., Jr., ed.  C. S. Lewis: Life, Works, Legacy, 4 vols. London: Praeger, 2007, esp. vol. 4.

———-.  A  Rhetoric of Reading:  C. S. Lewis’s Defense of Western Literacy.  Provo, Utah:  Center for the Study of Christian Values in Literature, 1986.

———-.  The Taste of the Pineapple:  Essays on C. S. Lewis as Reader, Critic, and Imaginative Writer.  Bowling Green, Oh.:  Bowling Green State Univ. Pr., 1988.

Edwards, Michael.  Towards a Christian Poetics.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1984.

Edwards, Michael I. and Bruce L. Edwards.  “’Everyman’s Tutor’:  C. S. Lewis on Reading and Criticism.”  In Bruce L. Edwards, ed. C. S. Lewis: Life, Works, Legacy, 4 vols. London: Praeger, 2007: 4:163-94.

Eliot, T. S.  Christianity and Culture.  N.Y.:  Harcourt, Brace, 1940.

———-.  On Poetry and Poets.  N.Y.:  Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 1943.

———-.  Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot.  N.Y.  Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1960.

Hart, Jeffrey.  Acts of Recovery: Essays on Culture and Politics.  Hanover: University Press of New England, 1989.

Kilby, Clyde S.  Christianity and Aesthetics.  Chicago:  InterVarsity Pr., 1961.

Lewis, C. S.  The Abolition of Man: Or, Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools.   N.Y.:  MacMillan, 1947

———-.  “Christianity and Culture.”  Theology 40 (March 1940): 166-79;  rptChristian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1967: 12-36.

———-.  “Christianity and Literature.”  Rehabilitations and Other Essays.  Oxford, 1939.  rpt.   Christian Reflections, op. cit.: 1-11.

———-.  “A Confession.”  Orig. pub. As “Spartan Nactus.”  Punch 227 (Dec. 1, 1954): 685;  rpt. Poems, ed. Walter Hooper. N.Y.:  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964: 1.

———-.  An Experiment in Criticism.  Cambridge:  Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1961.

———-.  “Lilies that Fester.”  The Twentieth Century, Apr., 1955;  rpt. in The World’s Last Night and Other Essays.  N.Y.:  Harcourt Brace & World, 1960: 31-49.

———-.  “On the Reading of Old Books.”  Preface to St. Athanasius, The Incarnation of the Word of God, trans. A Religious of C.S.M.V.  Bles, 1944;  rpt. God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1970: 200-207.

———-.  “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.”  The Library AssociationProceedings, Papers, and Summaries of Discussions at the Bournemouth Conference, 29th April to 2nd May 1952;  rpt.  Of Other Worlds, ed. Walter Hooper.  N.Y.:  Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1964: 22-34.

———-.  A Preface to Paradise Lost.  London:  Oxford Univ. Pr., 1962.

———-.  “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said.”  New York Times Book Review, Children’s Book Section, November 1956; rpt.  Of Other Worlds, op. cit.: 35-38.

Jeffrey, David Lyle.  People of the Book:  Christian Identity and Literary Culture.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1996.

Martin, Thomas L., ed.  Reading the Classics with C. S. Lewis.  Grand Rapids:  Baker, 2000.

Milton, John.  “Areopagetica.”  In Merrit Y. Hughes, ed., John Milton:  Complete Poems and Major Prose. Indianapolis:  Bobbs & Merrill, 1957:  716-49.

———-.  “Of Education.”  In Hughes, John Milton:  Complete Poems and Major Prose. Indianapolis:  Bobbs & Merrill, 1957: 630-39.

Mills, David. “Bad Books for Kids: A Guide to the World of Youth Literature & What You can Do about It.”  Touchstone 22:6 (July/August 2009): 22-27.

Montgomery, Marion.  The Truth of Things:  Liberal Arts and the Recovery of Reality.  Dallas:  Spence Pub. Co., 1990.

O’Connor, Flannery.  Mystery and Manners:  Occasional Prose.  ed. Sally Fitzgerald.  N.Y.:  Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 1961.

Rapp, Carl.  Fleeing the Universal:  The Critique of Post-Rational Criticism.  Albany:  The State Univ. of New York Pr., 1998.

Ritchie, Daniel E.  Reconstructing Literature in an Ideological Age: A Biblical Poetics and Literary Studies from Milton to Burke.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.

Ryken, Leland, ed..  The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Colorado Springs: Shaw, 2002.

———-.  Realms of Gold:  The Classics in Christian Perspective.  Wheaton:  Harold Shaw, 1991.

———-.  Triumphs of the Imagination:  Literature in Christian Perspective.  Downers Grove, Il.:  InterVarsity Pr., 1979.

Sayers, Dorothy L. “Creative Mind.”  in Roderick Jellema, ed., Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World: A Selection of Essays by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1969: 84-99.

———-.  “The Image of God.”  in Roderick Jellema, ed., Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World: A Selection of Essays by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1969:  100-106.

———-.  “The Lost Tools of Learning.”  In Rosamund Kent Sprague, ed., A Matter of Eternity: Selections from the Writings of Dorothy L. Sayers. Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1973:  107-135.

———-.  The Mind of the Maker.  London: Methuen, 1941; rpt. San Francisco:  Harper, 1968.

———-.  “Problem Picture.”  in Roderick Jellema, ed., Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World: A Selection of Essays by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1969:  107-129.

———-.  “Towards a Christian Aesthetic.”  in Roderick Jellema, ed., Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World: A Selection of Essays by Dorothy L. Sayers.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1969:  69-83.

Schaeffer, Francis A.  Art and the Bible: Two Essays.  Downers Grove, Il.:  InterVarsity Press, 1973.

Sidney, Sir Philip.  “The Defense of Poesy” (1595).  in Hyder E. Rollins & Herschel Baker, eds., The Renaissance in England: Non-Dramatic Prose and Verse of the Sixteenth Century.  Lexington, Mass.:  D. C. Heath, 1954: 605-24.

Tolkien, J. R. R.  “On Faerie Stories” (1938); rpt. In C. S. Lewis, ed., Essays Presented to Charles Williams. Oxford: Uxford Univ. Pr., 1947 & Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966: 38-89, and in The Tolkien Reader. N.Y.:  Ballantine, 1966:  26-84.

Uszynski, Edward.  “C. S. Lewis as a Scholar of Metaphor, Narrative, and Myth.”  In Bruce L. Edwards, ed. C. S. Lewis: Life, Works, Legacy, 4 vols. London: Praeger, 2007: 4:229-55.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J.  Is There a Meaning in this Text?  The Bible, the Reader, and the Morality of Literary Knowledge.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 1998.

Veith, Gene Edward, Jr.  Reading Between the Lines:  A Christian Guide to Literature.  Wheaton, Il.:  Crossway, 1990.

Von Balthasar, Hans Urs.  The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, 7 vol.  trans. Erasmo Leiva-Marikakis.  San Francisco:  Ignatius & N.Y.:  Crossroad, 1983-91.

———-.  Theo-Drama:  Theological Dramatic Theory, 5 vol.  trans. Graham Harrison.  San Francisco:  Ignatius, 1988-.

Walhout, Clarence, and Leland Ryken, eds.  Contemporary Literary Theory:  A Christian Appraisal.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1991.

Williams, Donald T.  “Christian Poetics, Past and Present,” in The Discerning Reader: Christian Perspectives on Literature and Theory, ed.  David Barratt, Roger Pooley, & Leland Ryken. Leicester, England: British Intervarsity Press, and Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995): 53-68; rpt. in The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing, ed. Leland Ryken. Colorado Springs: Shaw, 2002:  3-21.

———-.  “English Literature in the Sixteenth Century: C. S. Lewis as a Literary Historian.”  In Bruce L. Edwards, ed. C. S. Lewis: Life, Works, Legacy, 4 vols. London: Praeger, 2007: 4:143-62.

———-.  “The Great Divide: The Church and the Post-Modernist Challenge,” Christian Research Journal, 26:2 (Nov., 2003): 32-41 (rpt. as Appendix B in Mere Humanity, op cit).

———-.  Inklings of Reality: Essays Toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters.  Toccoa Falls, Ga.:  Toccoa Falls College Pr., 1996.

———-.  “Interview with Don Williams.” The Lamp-Post 27:2 (May 2004): 29-31.

———-.  “A Larger World: C. S. Lewis on Christianity and Literature.”  Mythlore 24:2 (Spring 2004): 45-37 (rpt. as Appendix A in Mere Humanity, op cit).

———-.  Mere Humanity: G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and J. R. R. Tolkien on the Human Condition.  Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2006.

———-.  “Poetry.”  The Lamp-Post 27:1 (Spring 2003): 24-32.

———-.  “Repairing the Ruins: Thoughts on Christian Higher Education.” Christian Educators Journal 41:4 (April 2002): 19-21.

———-.  “Revenge of the DWEMS: A Socratic Tetralog.” Global Journal of Classical Theology 5:3 (Online; October, 2006).

———-.  ”’Thou Art Still My God’: George Herbert and the Poetics of Edification.” Christian Scholar’s Review 19:3 (March, 1990): 271-85.

———-.  “Writers Cramped: On Three Things Evangelical Authors Can Learn from Flannery O’Connor.”  Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity 20:7 (September, 2007): 15-18.

Young, R. V.  At War with the Word: Literary Theory and Liberal Education.  Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 1999.

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About gandalf30598

Theologian, philosopher, poet, and critic; minister of the Gospel who makes his living by teaching medieval and renaissance literature; dual citizen of Narnia and Middle Earth.

Posted on June 6, 2011, in C. S. Lewis, Christianity, Donald Williams, Dorothy Sayers, Educational Resources, J.R.R. Tolkien, Literary Criticism, Sir Philip Sidney and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I’m quite familiar with the theories of Tolkien and Lewis, and I’ve read George MacDonald’s great essay “The Fantastic Imagination” on the purposes of fiction. Haven’t read these others, though. Thanks for the bibliography–I’ll probably return to it and seek out some of these texts.

  2. This is a handy resource, Don. Thanks for putting it together!

  3. Don, this is a great list. At Liberty the English Grads have to take a class “Christian Poetics” (Poetics as in Aristotle’s Poetics). It was a great class and we read several of those books or used them in our own research. I’d also like to submit a few more that I think were and are indispensable to my understanding of literary criticism and theory.

    Longinus, “On the Sublime.” Classical Literary Criticism. Trans. Penelope Murray and T. S. Dorsch. Penguin Books, New York: 2000. 113-166.

    Maritain, Jacques. Art and Scholasticism. Filiquarian Publishing, 2009.

    Scarry, Elaine. On Beauty and Being Just. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.

  4. I loved “Mind of the Maker” and “Is There Meaning in This Text?” Great, great books!

    And, of course, anything Tolkien or Lewis has to say about anything is going to change worlds.

  5. Pseudo-Longinus is an important historical source, but of course he wasn’t a Christian, so did not qualify for this bibliography. Maritain and Scarry are good additions.

    The two most important if anyone hasn’t read them are Sidney’s Defense of Poesy and Tolkien’s essay “On Fairie Stories.”

  6. Bless you. I just began a PhD program in English at Baylor, and while Baylor is friendly to Christianity, I was still wondering who would be good Christian literary theorists to read. This is wonderful.

  1. Pingback: Christian Literary Theory: A Bibliography (via While We’re Paused) « Travis Lambert

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