Monday, February 23, 2009

Going into Out of the Silent Planet


In assessing C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet, I would like you to answer one of the following questions in an essay of at least five, typed paragraphs:

  • What are some indications that Malacandra is Lewis' fictional representation of a Utopia in which differing species live in peace and harmony without succumbing to the violent competition Darwin describes in his writings?
  • How is the society of the hnau a representation of the "Mystical Body of Christ"?
  • What are some indications of social Darwinism in Ransom's initial outlook regarding the planet and its various species as well as in Weston's attitude towards Malacandra? Keep in mind, also, Weston's views on scientific progress.
  • How are Weston and Devine representations of an evolutionary perspective that is based on perceived progress and ultimately unrealistic promise of science?
  • How is Ransom's journey from Earth to Malacandra and then through Malacandra in his trek to meet Oyarsa indicative of a spiritual adventure involving the archetypal steps of the mystic's journey to God that involves the following: awakening, purgation, illumination, dark night, and union (see explanations of each below).
  • What are the various landscapes involved in Ransom's journey and how are they relevant to a spiritual journey towards union with God?
  • What, ultimately, separates Earth--or Thulcandra, the "Silent Planet"--from Malacandrian society? How does Oyarsa's reacton to Weston and Devine imply that Earth is a "bent" society?
  • Define and explain the philosophical meaning of the novel and its basis as a critique of modern society as essentially Godless.
  • How is Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet an extension of the creation story and Milton's Paradise Lost?
  • How does fear of death play a role as a plot device that moves the story forward?
  • What is the role of philology as a plot device that moves the story forward?
  • Create your own question and answer.

What you will essentially be doing is taking these questions and making thesis statements of them that will inform your body paragraphs. The aim of your body paragraphs will be to use specific textual evidence to back up the various claims made in your thesis paragraph.

Your essay should be double-spaced in 12 pt. Georgia font and should follow MLA format for all citations.

Your front page should include a heading formatted as follows:

Your Name

Bro. Robert Peach, FSC

Eng 141 / British Literature

March 10, 2009

(a creative title that is centered, but not in bold or underlined)

Body paragraphs...

Some Key Terms

  • awakening: involves the expansion of one's consciousness and one's conscious experience of the world, revitalizing the self in relationship to the world, heightening one's intuitive sense in a way that magnifies the interior life of the individual; awakening is thus a psychological awakening, a deepening of one's awareness of forces that are both cause for joy and of pain in light of the divinity which the mystic aspires to grasp as a result of his felt separation from the Divine.
  • purgation: involves renunciation of worldly attachments that distract the mystic from reaching out to the world more charitably and prophetically; directly related to the concept of self-denial and ego-death, purgation requires utter self-sacrifice and a disregard for all distractions of ego-desire, often through a sustained period of sensory deprivation.
  • illumination: involves a catharsis, or release, of psychological tension stored up after a period of sustained self-sacrifice and sensory-deprivation characterized by a sense of physical, emotional, mental, and intellectual radiance; involves a feeling of absolute harmony with the Absolute, leading inevitably to a heightened intuitional knowledge and expansion of consciousness.
  • dark night: involves a sense of emptiness that follows illumination; involves a profoundly painful sense of self-awareness together with a lack of God-awareness--a sort of doubt and a shocking knowledge of one's "smallness" in the universe and the grand scheme of things; the inner longing for union with God becomes acute; entails psychological fatigue as well as physical exhaustion.
  • union: a gradual merging with God, preceded by a deep healing, an increasing sense of "oneness with God--as well as oneness with other selves and, indeed, the whole of creation" (Richard Woods 55).
  • Mystical Body of Christ: stemming from St. Paul's theology, it entails the unity of all individuals within creation, contributing equally to the spreading of God's kingdom of love by way of natural talents and abilities
  • Utopia: An imaginary island, represented by Sir Thomas More (1516), in a work called Utopia, as enjoying the greatest perfection in politics, laws, and the like.
  • Philology: the study of literary texts and of written records, as well as language, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning

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