Truth incarnate : story as sacrament in the mythopoeic thought and fiction of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien
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The thesis is organized as two sections of two chapters each: the first section establishes a theoretical framework of a broad and reinvigorated Christian sacramentality within which to situate the second—an investigation of the theories and practice of the mythopoeic art of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien in this sacramental light. The first chapter acknowledges the thoroughgoing disenchantment of modernity, an effect traced to the vanishing of a sacramental understanding of the world, and then explores the history of the sacramental concept that would seek to be reclaimed and reconceived as a possible means of the re-enchantment of Western culture such as in the recent work of David Brown. An appreciative critique of Brown’s work is offered in chapter two before proposing an alternative understanding of a distinctly Christian and reinvigorated sacramentality anchored in the Incarnation and operating by Transposition. A notion of sacramental vision is developed from the perceptual basis in its classic definitions, and a sacramental understanding of story is considered from a theological perspective on the infinite generativity of meaning in texts, along with recent theories of affect and affordance. The second half of the thesis expounds the views of mythopoeia held by Lewis and Tolkien in order to show how they are not only compatible with but lead to a sacramental understanding of story as developed in part one, with mythopoeia affording the recovery of a potentially transformative vision of reality, awakening it into focus in distinctly Christian ways (chapter three). The final chapter demonstrates how their mythopoeic theories are exemplified in their art, examining specific ways Till We Have Faces and The Lord of the Rings afford the recovery of a potentially transformative vision of various themes central to them. In closing it is suggested that such a sacramental understanding of story may contribute to the re-enchantment of Western culture, not to mention the re-mythologization and re-envisaging of Christianity, whose significance in these regards has been hitherto mostly unrecognized.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2025-10-28
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 28th October 2025
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