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Oxford Scholar Presents Latest Research

By Rachel Judy | September 27, 2010

Dr. Michael Ward

C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia are loved by generations around the world. For children, the adventures in Narnia are unparalleled. For scholars, the books contain a literary mystery that has, at times, seemed unsolvable. Oxford chaplain and Lewis scholar Dr. Michael Ward has begun to unlock some of Lewis' secrets.

On Sept. 22, Regent University's School of Communication & the Arts hosted Ward's presentation "The Heavens are Telling the Glory of God: C.S. Lewis, Narnia, and the Planets" in which he presented his theories on Lewis' work. Ward's theory responds to the disagreement among the literary community over the seemingly random construction of the books. Although they are presented as a series, there are significant inconsistencies between them that have left both readers and scholars puzzled.

"The possibility that he could have just slopped these books together is simply unthinkable," Ward told a packed audience. Rather, Ward says that Lewis—known for his secretive nature—knew exactly what he was doing when he wrote each of the seven books.

Ward believes that each of the seven novels in the Chronicles of Narnia is framed around one of the seven planets of Medieval cosmology—Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus and Saturn.

"The Narnia books are richly teeming with creative intelligence & because Lewis believed the same about the real world," he explained.

Ward pointed out that the subtle use of planetary characteristics in his stories is in keeping with Lewis' stated belief that atmosphere, not plot, is what ultimately draws a reader into a story. "The plot, as we call it, is only really a net whereby to catch something else. The real theme may be ... much more like a state or quality," Lewis wrote.

Ward is perhaps best known for his 2008 book, Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis. The result of his doctoral dissertation research, Planet Narnia present's Ward's theory that there is indeed a cohesive theme among Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. His latest book, The Narnia Code: C. S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens (set for release in November) continues this look at Lewis' literary intentions.

A leading expert on the works of C.S. Lewis, Ward is a writer, speaker and chaplain of St. Peter's College, Oxford. He is the associate editor of Davey's, an online daily poetry subscription and the co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis (not yet released, with Robert MacSwain) and Heresies and How to Avoid Them (with Ben Quash).

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