John Wain versus C.S. Lewis on the role of the writer, with reference to worshiping God with imagination


The novelist and critic John Wain, a former student of C.S. Lewis, had a disagreement with his teacher:

“A writer’s task, I maintained, was to lay bare the human heart, and this could not be done if he were continually taking refuge in the spinning of fanciful webs. Lewis retorted with a theory that, since the Creator had seen fit to build a universe and set it in motion, it was the duty of the human artist to create as lavishly as possible in his turn. The romancer, who invents a whole world, is worshiping God more effectively than the mere realist who analyses that which lies around him. Looking back across fourteen years, I can hardly believe that Lewis said anything so manifestly absurd as this, and perhaps I misunderstood him; but that, at any rate, is how my memory reports the incident.”

— John Wain, Sprightly Running (1963), found in Lord of the Elves and Eldils: Fantasy and Philosophy in C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (1974) by Richard Purtill

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