Why Study CS Lewis in High School?

This week on Homeschool Highschool Podcast: Why Study CS Lewis in High School?

Why Study C.S. Lewis in High School?

Why Study CS Lewis in High School?

This week on HSHSP, Vicki talks about one of her favorite topics: the writings of C.S. Lewis! If you have not ever thought about Lewis for homeschool high schoolers, hang in there. Vicki will explain why studying his works is a good idea.

Here are some reasons why study CS Lewis in high school?:

There are tons of reasons why Why Study CS Lewis in High School. However, we only have time for a few:

It is fun!

Really! Did you read The Chronicles of Narnia to your kids when they were younger? You might have noticed that you were enjoying the stories also. That is because Lewis wrote these stories to be ageless. He said:

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

The Narnia books really do not grow old. Teens in high school can revisit The Chronicles at a more adult level. Now, they can enjoy and learn from the symbolism and deeper concepts that Lewis embeds in those stories. Then, they can move onto his deeper fiction works, like The Screwtape Letters and The Space Trilogy.

A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest. -CS Lewis

They can learn to think about theological concepts in a different way

Many of our homeschool high schoolers are used to Bible studies with the family or in their Sunday school classes, youth groups or summer camps. However, they can gain a deeper understanding when they turn the theological perspective on its head.

When they read The Screwtape Letters, that is exactly what Lewis does. This novel are the “letters” of an older demon trying to train his nephew on how to be a successful tormentor of his assigned human. In the book, readers learn a bit about the whiles of the devil and the undefeatableness (is that a word?) of God.

While thinking about theological concepts in a different manner, teens can move on to literature studies in The Space Trilogy. This is a series of books:

  • Out of the Silent Planet
  • Perelandra
  • That Hideous Strength

Each of the books takes a Science Fiction look at theology. No kidding! Lewis authored these books in the early days of Sci-Fi popularity (even before space exploration). With the popularity of this genre in mind, Lewis embeds theological and ethical concepts in some deep and compelling ways. (These books might be a little dense for younger teens, however, every reader is different- so do what is best for your students.)

Teens learn to think wisely and to read deeply

As high schoolers, teens can read The Chronicles of Narnia at a deeper level. Lewis embedded a lot of symbolism in his books. While reading, teens can learn to have fun looking for it. For instance:

  • It is obvious that Aslan is a symbol of Christ.
  • Aslan sacrifices himself for Edmond’s betrayal. This, of course, is a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins.
  • Prince Rilian in the cavern is a symbol of Plato’s analogy of the cave. (You really need the study guide if you have not studied Plato’s cave.)

However, there are even more symbols that are not quite as obvious. For instance, Lewis takes symbolic themes and integrates them into his stories. (That is why having a study guide to help walk through this discovery process can help teens get the most out of the stories.)

Side note:

CS Lewis preferred to use the word “symbolism” for his works rather than “allegory”. We are sometimes more familiar with the term “allegory” if we have read the Christian classics like Pilgrim’s Progress or Hinds Feet in High Places. That is because allegories require a sharp one-to-one correlation between the character or event in the story and the theological concepts or event.

Instead, Lewis uses symbolism. With symbolism, there does not need to be as clear a one-to-one correlation. Also, sometimes with symbolism, the author is free to simply drop a symbol into a scene or story and leave it there (like a treat or Easter egg).

Why Study CS Lewis in High School? to learn symbolism

Lewis uses symbolism from:

  • Theological concepts

    • Common concepts like redemption
    • Some concepts from mystical theologians
  • Classic Greek literature

    • Such as centaurs and fauns in the Chronicles
  • Traditional philosophy such as Plato’s:

    • Forms
    • Levels of reality
  • More modern philosophic concepts such as “sehnsucht”

    • This is a deep but joyful longing (such as a Christian’s longing for heaven)
    • Here and there, in Lewis’ novels, you will see that he notes a blue flower in a scene. Anywhere you see a blue flower, you know that a moment of sehnsucht about to happen. That is because blue flowers traditionally in German literature and art are symbolic of longing.
  • Concepts from his friend, J.R.R. Tolkien, such as:

    • The numinous: that awesome feeling or lightness and peace when in God’s presence
    • This is symbolically resented in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Lucy meets Aslan again.

So, how can you get hold of study guides for all these? Well, of course, go to 7SistersHomeschool.com and download these guides. (In these study guides, we gradually coach homeschool high schoolers through the process of understanding symbolism and the deep reading processes that Lewis is aiming for in his writings. Also, the guides include backstory and inferential skills development, vocabulary suggestions and assignments for teens who what to level up to Honors.)

Our 7Sisters Literature Study Guides for the novels of CS Lewis help bring a high schooler step by step through developing the thinking and inferential skills that he sought to develop in these books. Our students have told us over the years that these guides, like 7Sisters other curriculum is “da bomb“!

BTW- For teens who would like to delve more into Lewis, here’s a post that discusses writing projects to go along with the books as well as a post on improving writing by reading the works of CS Lewis by a professor who teaches writing.

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