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the Complete Review
the complete review - literary criticism

An Experiment in Criticism


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To purchase An Experiment in Criticism

Title: An Experiment in Criticism
Author: C.S.Lewis
Genre: Essay
Written: 1961
Length: 143 pages
Availability: An Experiment in Criticism - US
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Our Assessment:

B : elegantly written, and some reasonable and interesting thoughts.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The NY Times Book Rev. . 17/12/1961 David Daiches

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The complete review's Review:

        Besides writing the classic Narnia books, C.S.Lewis was also a noted critic and scholar. This small volume is an interesting little essay on criticism -- of art in general, and literature in particular. With a true love of and appreciation for literature Lewis addresses the issue of what makes a book good or bad. He correctly examines the question from a proper distance, acknowledging that time and circumstance (and fashion) often dictate how a book is judged.
       Lewis proposes that books be judged by how they are read. Returning often to the passion with which youth immerses itself in a book, Lewis believes that that is the true test for a literary work. The desire to reread a book, the feeling of having been changed by the experience of reading a particular work: this, he says, is what makes literature.
       Lewis writes well, and the slim volume is probably worth reading simply for the pleasure it affords in this respect. It is somewhat dated, though that is only problematic as regards a very few of the men he cites, worthies that have fallen into oblivion. The argument itself is appealing, but not wholly convincing. Many of us would like to see literature like this, and differentiate between the good and the bad as Lewis does, but experience teaches us different. The internet, in particular, shows the great passion which the truly bad can arouse in readers. Few authors are as revered (and maligned) as the quite mediocre Ayn Rand, and while there is some sort of case to be made for her as fitting in the category of the good there are many authors (of science fiction, in particular) who are discussed and reread with almost unequaled passion yet whose work by no measure whatsoever could be termed even passable.

       It is a worthy book and an interesting argument. The essay, well-presented, reads well (and quickly). We recommend it quite highly, with the caveat that it is a donnish, British book, which may not be to some reader's liking.

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An Experiment in Criticism: C.S.Lewis: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), British writer, born in Belfast. Fellow and tutor of Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1925 onwards. Strong religious (Christian) bent to much of his writing. Best known for his children's/adventure books, The Chronicles of Narnia

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