"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Monday, October 27, 2008

Informational speech on C.S.Lewis

Below is a speech I will be giving in my public speaking class next Thursday. Let me know what you think about it. I am open to suggestion for improving it. Just remember it is 6-10 min. long so not all the interesting stuff I wanted to put in would fit. Also, the headings I have put in are required in that order. Enjoy

Attention Getter:

200 million. That’s the number of C.S.lewis books sold over the last 70 years, according to publishing numbers. Less than 100 authors have sold over 100 million books; Steven King, Charles Dickens, and the author of Harry Potter are in this list, but who is C.S.Lewis and why are his books so popular?

Credentials and relevancy:

I’ve been a C.S.Lewis fan for years, ever since reading his Chronicles of Narnia fantasy series as a kid. Since then, I’ve read nearly all of his 34 books and numerous biographies. Part of the answer to why he is so popular is that he is fun and easy to read. But what you will learn today is that Lewis wrote a great variety of books that have appealed to a great variety of people. You’ve probably heard of, or even read, the
Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis’s wildly popular children’s fantasies, but if you think you’re too old for that, Lewis wrote some other bestsellers that might be right down your ally.

Purpose statement and preview of the main points:

Today you’ll hear what some of those books are as we look at 3 aspects of C.S.Lewis’s life: C.S.Lewis the Scholar, C.S.Lewis the Christian, and C.S.Lewis the novelist.

1st. main point:

First, Let’s look at what sort of scholar C.S.Lewis was. As a boy growing up in Ireland at the beginning of the 20st. century, Lewis liked nothing better than reading books in the family’s attic. This love of reading led him to become a student at Oxford University, where he studied literature and philosophy. Immediately after graduating, Lewis began teaching and writing on these subjects. Eventually he became the chair of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University. He was such an expert in this field that he was asked to write the official Oxford History of 16th. Century Literature.

2nd. main point:

Besides his career as a brilliant literary scholar, Lewis had another interest: Religion. I mentioned that you would hear about C.S.Lewis the Christian but C.S.Lewis wasn’t always a Christian. As a teenager and college student he was an outspoken atheist. This began to change, however, when he met a fellow professor whom I think most of you have probable heard of: J.R.R.Tolkien. Just like Lewis, Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books have sold 300 million copies, enough for everyone in the United States to have one.

One evening in 1931 the two friends got to talking about one of there favorite subjects: religion. Lewis the atheist arguing against it, Tolkien, a Christian, explaining why he believed. According to George Sayers, a friend and later biographer, they walked into the Oxford college rose garden and kept talking, and talking, and talking…until 3 in the morning! The end of the story is that Lewis became a Christian. Any Lord of the Rings fan will be interested to know that Lewis’s funny and profound bestseller, The Screwtape Letters, was dedicated to Tolkien. This book is the imaginary correspondence between a high-ranking devil and his young apprentice tempter Screwtape. It’s funny but has some keen observations about humanity as well. You don’t have to be a Christian to enjoy it. In fact, very few of Lewis’s quote “Christian” books were written for Christians Since he was once an atheist, Lewis wrote many books to those people asking the same questions about God and the meaning of life that he once asked. Mere Christianity, a [citation needed] million bestseller is one of these books that answer some tough questions about Christianity. The Problem of Pain asks why—if there is a God—he would allow suffering in the world.

3rd. main point:

So far we have looked at 2 aspects of Lewis’s life and a sampling of some of the books that derived from it. But C.S.Lewis the scholar and Christian have only sold about, oh, 75 million copies, so where do the rest come from? They come from C.S.Lewis the Novelist.

You already know Lewis loved to read, but what kind of stories were his favorite? According to [citation needed], he loved fair tales and fantasies. It didn’t matter if they were written for children; he still loved them. In his own essay entitled: “Sometimes Fairy Stories Say Best What’s To Be Said,” Lewis said that
I fell in love with the [fairy tale] form itself: its brevity, its severe restraints on description, its flexible traditionalism, its inflexible hostility to all analysis, digression, reflections and ‘gas.’ I was now enamored of it. Its very limitations of vocabulary became an attraction; as the hardness of the stone pleases the sculpture or the difficulty of the sonnet delights the sonneteer.
He goes on: “[As an author myself] I wrote fairy tales because the fairy tale seemed the ideal form for the stuff I had to say” (On Stories, 47). And so we have the Chronicles of Narnia today. Not children’s stories only but stories with a simplicity and clearness of writing that even children can understand. The reason why Narnia is so popular for many adults still, may hinge on what Lewis once said, quote, “It certainly is my opinion that a book worth reading only as a child is not worth reading even then” (On Stories, 48).

Science Fiction is not all that different from fantasy. During the1940s and 50s when Lewis was at the peak of his writing career, Science Fiction was just becoming popular. Lewis contributed to the rise of Sci-fi with a space trilogy. In the first book, Ransom is abducted by an evil scientist who plans to take him to Mars as a gift/sacrifice/offering to the Martians. On landing he escapes but is soon recaptured by the strange natives. They don’t sacrifice him on a bloody alter like he thought, instead he must help them send the evil scientist back to earth. That’s a simplification but I don’t want to give everything away before you’ve read it for yourself.

Review of the preview:

The third and final book in this trilogy, That Hideous Strength, is one of my favorite books. Maybe that’s because it reveals all aspects of C.S.Lewis that we just looked at. C.S.Lewis the Novelist is at his height writing about a scientific conspiracy to control all of England. C.S.Lewis the Christian has his hero wrestle with choosing to resist evil or join it for the sake of power and wealth. His heroine also discovers that helping others is better than always thinking of oneself. Finally, C.S.Lewis the Medieval Scholar supplies the background for the reappearance of the legendary wizard Merlin after a 1000-year sleep.

It’s hard not to like an author who has a little something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff wanting to empress your history or lit teacher on a test, or you’re looking for the easy to understand answers to the hard questions of life, or you just want to curl up with a good story, try C.S.Lewis. 200 million other people have liked him; you might too.

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