Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Studying Screwtape: discovering the strategies of Hell
This review was originally published on Examiner.com.
C. S. Lewis' fame in America has arguably been tied to the September 8, 1947 cover of Time magazine, where he appeared with an image of the devil behind his left shoulder. The Screwtape Letters, an imaginative account of a senior devil writing advice to his "nephew" apprentice, made waves when it was published in February of 1942, quickly selling out multiple printings. The "letters" were originally published in an Anglican periodical, the Guardian, as a series which began in May the previous year.
In honor of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the publication, Winged Lion Press has published a new study guide of the book, by William O'Flaherty. O'Flaherty is well known to Lewis academics and enthusiasts as the creator and host of the podcast series "All About Jack," which has published some 264 talks and interviews since 2012. He also runs the Essential C.S. Lewis website, which includes a resource begun last August examining questionable quotes attributed to Lewis. C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell is his first book, but he is well qualified for the task, and the volume has been endorsed by Lewis scholars such as Diana Pavlac Glyer, Devin Brown, and Carolyn Curtis.
Unlike many of the study guides out there, Hell is more than capable of multiple functions. It would serve well as not just a commentary to be read along with Screwtape, but as a guide to use for Sunday School or book club. The provided questions for discussion can be used in a variety of ways, depending on how in depth you or your group want to delve. The "Topical Glossary" is helpful to identifying and understanding the characters, as well as providing a list of topics to explore the various themes throughout Lewis' masterpiece. The appendices provide seven brief essays of interest that could well serve as jumping off points for further study.
C.S. Lewis Goes to Hell is a companion you can decide how to use best. Want to know what Lewis wrote on a certain subject in Screwtape? You can do that. Want just an overview of the book? That's provided. Want to teach Screwtape in a formal or informal setting? This book is suitable for that, too. One can also envision Hell being used as inspiration for academics to gain enlightenment and research further.