Reviewing Jason M. Baxter’s The Medieval Mind of C.S. Lewis
The general public knows 20th-century author C.S. Lewis from such works as The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters. However, outside of specific circles very little is known about C.S. Lewis the academic and classicist. In his The Medieval Mind of C.S. Lewis, Jason M. Baxter introduces readers to a side of Lewis with which they may not yet be acquainted, but which is crucial to understanding even the most familiar Lewis texts.
By Its Cover
Immediately David Fasset’s beautiful cover design catches the attention, with a young lewis, a book in his lap and more flying about his head, seated with heraldic supporter lions on either side (perhaps an intended pun by Fasset, suggesting Lewis reads between the lions), all set against a royal blue cosmic backdrop and gilt with medieval manuscript illuminations. Simply put, the book is stunning. Fasset should be commended for capturing the tone of the text with his design, as the cover prepares the reader for a journey into Lewis’ love for all things classical.
Scanning the back cover, those familiar with the world of Lewis scholarship will recognize Michael Ward’s (Planet Narnia) presence in the reviews. Ward’s recommendation instills in the reader both confidence in Baxter’s findings, and excitement to begin reading. “Jason Baxter does a great job of surveying and unpacking this whole side of Lewis’s work and its sophisticated, sacramental, and symphonic qualities. The result is a thrilling, moving, and even dangerous ride.”
As for the quality of the binding and materials, this book can take a beating. IVP has produced a slim paperback that can be heavily annotated, the spine bent to the will of the reader, and will still hold up for future readings. Additionally, the publishing details state “this book was printed using sustainably sourced paper,” which in my opinion speaks to IVP’s commitment to using quality materials.
By Its Merits
Reading Medieval Mind gives one the sense that Baxter has read everything Lewis has ever written (or at least published), and possibly a fair amount of what Lewis read. This enables Baxter to make a clear and convincing case that C.S. Lewis was so passionate about and inspired by the classics that his works are everywhere fragranced with classicism. Those who wish to know more about this aspect of C.S. Lewis and how his literary input shaped his literary output will find this book invaluable.
Additionally, those who wish to venture into the spirituality of Lewis will also find this book of great interest. Baxter does a good job of introducing the reader to the mysticism of Lewis, his fascination with the numinous, and the impact of books like The Cloud of Unknowing on his spiritual life. Baxter also illustrates how certain characters in Lewis’s work (Lucy in the Narnian Chronicles, for example) portray a kind of mysticism as Lewis understood it.
Published by IVP academic, Baxter is at all times scholarly but accessible to readers. At certain points the less academically inclined may not be as interested in the material, but this is only a matter of preference, and certainly should not detract from Baxter’s work. There is something for every Lewis fan to glean from this book, and is indeed a well-researched, well-constructed, and wonderfully presented contribution to Lewis scholarship.
By Its Faults
It is difficult to find anything negative to say about Baxter’s book. As previously stated, there are some discussions in which certain audiences may be less interested, but even then Baxter is doing the necessary work of giving a thorough account of Lewis’s classicism. My advice to readers is if you find yourself weighed down by heavy scholarship, simply skim to get the information, but push through as Baxter is sure to have more Lewisian nuggets waiting around every page turn.
Medieval Mind of CS Lewis Book
By Its Rating
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Medieval Mind of CS Lewis Book Review