31 March 2007

198 words: quick, now

Earlier, I announced my knowledge of a certain CS Lewis conference. This evening, while watching the Gators trounce the Bruins (as predicted in my bracket and the warm cockles of my little heart), I emailed a paper proposal for that conference. Hopefully, they accept.

It was harder than I expected to do this. Lots of reasons why, but they're mostly compositional. That is, I have never composed an actual title for something unwritten, and I have certainly never composed a confident thesis before actually writing the body of its essay. But the CFP required both, so I struggled for them and have relative peace with what emerged. Here they are: first the proposed title, then a 198-word abstract for an unwritten but proposed paper. All comments welcome.

Will the Green Lady Become a Self? The Dangers of Self-Consciousness in CS Lewis' Perelandra

In the book of Genesis, no one asks "Who am I?" before the Fall, but all sons and daughters after ask this because the initial temptation struck directly at the question of identity: will humans define themselves as creatures in relationship with their Creator or as autonomous beings? In CS Lewis' Perelandra, the Un-man tempts the Green Lady with Eden's rhetoric, arguing that she can and should take upon herself the independent risk of disobedience: he tells stories about great women and teaches her about beauty, and then he makes those arguments practical by showing the Green Lady her other self in a mirror. As she begins to believe that experience trumps all theory, her interceder, Ransom, fears he may have finally lost her. After all, Ransom knows that this rhetorical triptych—the high call to maternal martyrdom, the definition of beauty as costume, and the assertion of an autonomous self—could steal the Green Lady's affections from Maleldil and the king to herself. Though many have argued that self-awareness distinguishes humans from all other creatures, the Perelandrian temptation demonstrates its dangers: such consciousness leads to independence, which leads to ego-centrism, which destroys relationships and compromises real beauty.


Arthur Jackson said...

Uhh, you already know what I think about this.

Jen Strange said...

Indeed, sir. Thanks so much for your helpful suggestions. The last sentence is so so improved! And the surge of adrenaline when you pointed out the correlating passage in Problem! What fun.