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The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature (Canto)

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  1,059 ratings  ·  87 reviews
This, Lewis's last book, was hailed as 'the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind'.
Paperback, 231 pages
Published 2010 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1964)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,709)
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Terry
To me, this might be C. S. Lewis' best book. I will have to cop to not really liking the Narnia books (too allegorical and those British schoolchildren are pretty annoying), and while I do quite like his "Space Trilogy" I think that Lewis was much better as a writer of academic non-fiction than he was as a fiction writer. Here Lewis is able to tackle a huge subject: medieval cosmology and worldview, and bring both his wide reading and ability to make things understandable to the "common man" to ...more
Ron
Dec 25, 2010 Ron rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
An excellent work from C. S. Lewis's day job. A must read for students of history as well as literature. Takes the reader into the worldview of literate people of that era. Not only what they read, but how they viewed reality. Some surprises.

Much more accessible than other scholarly books of the same genre, yet fascinating insights to a time and place so different from our own that it might as well be science-fiction or fantasy.

Modern authors should review this work before presuming to write pe
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Brian Robbins
This book warrants a thorough review. Sadly, it's not going to get one here, more a few words of admiration and a smattering of a few of the author’s own words.

Lewis in his professional capacity is always at his best. His words about the nature of the best medieval authors’ work sums up his own writing about his academic interests.

“The author’s basic attitude remains free from strain or posturing. He [wishes to] honour a theme which for him … ought to be honoured.”

Lewis provides in this book, a
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Mark Adderley
Possibly the best introduction to the thought of the Middle Ages available. The only problem with it is how infectious Lewis' enthusiasm is. I hurried off to the library to check out the "South English Legendary" on Lewis' recommendation in this book, and found it unremittingly dull. And I like Middle English literature!
Brian
C S Lewis' introduction to Medieval and Renaissance literature focuses on the medieval world view. He outlines medieval cosmology, beliefs about humanity and attitudes to the classical past and to scholarship in general, summarising the principal classical and late classical/early medieval authors through whose work the seminal ideas of the period were transmitted.

Lewis was a natural teacher and his explanations are refreshingly free from the obscurism that is so prevalent in much literary criti
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Brittany Petruzzi
Mr. Schlect gave me my ticket for the medievalism train back in sophomore year. Had I known then where this train would lead me and what a crazy ride it was, I may have declined to climb aboard. Now that I’m here, I might as well enjoy it and in The Discarded Image Lewis does a good job of helping me out.

Never has there been a better explanation in literature of why the Dark Ages weren’t actually dark. Lewis explains, in vibrant prose, how Medievalism was a natural outgrowth of Classicism. Moder
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Jennifer
I know that this book is about a very specific topic (which might seem irrelevant to most people in our modern era), but it is also about PARADIGM, and this is a big, timeless theme. I can honestly say that this is one of those books whose "big idea" has informed my way of thinking about all of life in general, to a surprising degree. The book itself is a challenging read. You must put on your thinking cap from time to time. But hang in there with it, because he summarizes well towards the end, ...more
Heather
The Discarded Image is a keenly focused work by C. S. Lewis the Medievalist and scholar. Based off lectures of his given at Oxford, it possess a tone and intellectual demand that presume its readers are literary scholars, or at least willing to put up with a good deal of literary scholarship talk. This side of Lewis--the side that reflects his actual vocation--is often forgotten because he has written so many other books for "everyone." True enough, the scholarly steepness of The Discarded Image ...more
Mark
One of the great and truly timeless works of scholarship on the Middle Ages. (Literally hundreds of PhDs have built their careers on ideas Lewis would have left to a footnote.)

Assembled from a series of Lewis's highly polished Oxford lectures, THE DISCARDED IMAGE presents a dazzling view of the way (educated) people in the medieval and early modern periods thought about the universe, the world, and everything in it--i.e., their "models" for understanding reality. Easy-to-read though erudite, thi
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Nick
A recent article by Stratford Caldecott on The Imaginative Conservative blog got me intrigued about this book: a work published by CS Lewis' within his academic specialty of medieval and renaissance literature. I was aware this book existed, but recent forays into classical educational models sparked an interest in being able to approach literary works of the past with a good sense of the "mental furniture" that ordinary members of past audiences possessed. While I was more or less familiar with ...more
Dave Maddock
A few general comments and then I will expound at length about my quibbles. First, this book is a phenomenal introduction to what Lewis calls the "Medieval Model"--the medieval world view. This should really be required reading before embarking on any study of the literature or history of that period.

Ok, now on to my quibbles. This book is not Christian apology dammit. It is really annoying to find this shelved in the religion section when it is more appropriately placed with literary criticism,
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Andreas
This is an amazing book that provides a deep insight into the medieval world model. The people living in that age saw the world and their place within the world with different eyes and I found it very interesting to understand the foundations of their thinking. C.S. Lewis gives many examples and references that are easy to follow. It's a rather short book but without it one will never be able to really appreciate books like the Canterbury Tales or the Divine Comedy. Highly recommended.
Ellen Bleaney
If this book doesn't make you love Medieval studies, I don't know what will.
Bigmg
Been picking through this amazing book for over three years. Finally got serious and plowed through. Several times.
Each page is packed with interesting facts about how the Medieval age shaped how we see things today.
What I took away from this was invaluable. The fusion in ancient knowledge; Aristotle, Plato to Dante and Milton, to name a very small few.
How did this imagery affect Shakespeare, the King James Bible, or that long line of remarkable poets (especially English).
We know much of WHA
...more
Jennifer Freitag
This apparently little known, last book of Lewis' is, at first glance, misleading with its dull-sounding subtitle "An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature." We are probably expecting a detailed break-down of the great works of literature in those days. Not so. With his characteristically engaging wit coupled with years' worth of study and devotion to the subject, Lewis presents the Model of the universe as composed and seen by medieval scholars. Their fervent desire to categorize ...more
Edward Waters
To begin with, it must be acknowledged that the subtitle of this work is apt to be misinterpreted. Lewis's last book of his own initiative, which but for some late corrections would have been published in the final months of his life, might be better understood as a 'preface' to mediaeval and Renaissance literature than as what is now most often meant by an 'introduction'. For his stated purpose is not one of identifying, summarizing, and expounding major works, but of explaining the world-view ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in April 2000.

C.S. Lewis introduces us to medieval and Renaissance literature by describing the medieval world view, which he calls the Model. Some parts of this will be familiar to most of those who know something of medieval history, theology or philosophy, or who have read some of the typical literature of the period. However, some of what Lewis has to say was new and illuminating even to someone like myself, fascinated with the medieval period.

The Model c
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Elena
This is based on a lecture series that Lewis gave several times while a don at Oxford. It's a great introduction both to Medieval Literature and to the medieval worldview or "model" as he names it. There were so many interesting parts to this book--it's hard to summarize. He presents a different interpretation of the Great Chain of Being and the Ptolemaic view of the universe. The sun and the spheres revolved around the earth not because the earth was so important but because the earth was so hu ...more
Mary Catelli
An interesting and useful book about the Middle Ages particularly if you want to go off and read primary source -- that was, in fact, its primary purpose, to give people information before they headed off to medieval works and either kept interrupting their reading to research what something meant, or misread it in blissful ignorance.

It discusses some currently obscure writers who were major influences.

It covers the structure of the universe and how it differs from the modern model; size is cons
...more
David Haines
C. S. Lewis specialized in Medieval and renaissance literature, and this book is a short, fun, and interesting introduction to the subject. This book demonstrates the extent of Lewis's knowledge, as he quotes from, and refers freely to, authors that range all the way from Cicero to Hegel and back again. This book gives a great introduction to Medieval Literature and how it interacted with medieval philosophy, literature, cosmology, poetry, etc. This is a great book to read for anybody who is int ...more
Marc Hays
The Discarded Image is the first book in many a moon that I have read straight through without dabbling in any other works. I started reading it 3 days ago and have sought every opportunity to re-enter the Medieval world through Lewis' door. But perhaps it is not just any door. Perhaps The Discarded Image is more like the door to a wardrobe, one that you felt almost sure would be locked, but to your surprise, "it opened quite easily, and two moth balls dropped out."
Joshua Nuckols
Regarding the Medieval approach to art: "Literature exists to teach what is useful, to honour what deserves honour, to appreciate what is delightful. The useful, honourable, and delightful things are superiour to it: it exists for their sake; its own use, honour, or delightfulness is derivative from theirs. In that sense the art is humble even when the artists are proud." (pp. 214)
J. Alfred
One of the Phillies play-by-play announcers, Chris Wheeler, continually amazes me: they have a "stump the fans" trivia question every game, and they are always absurdly hard. I've known the answers to excactly zero of them since I've been watching baseball, and sports trivia is something I'm not bad at. Wheels knows EVERY QUESTION. His knowledge of the Phills is simply encyclopedic. I bring this up because he reminds me of Lewis.
Lewis, in this book, quotes people I didn't know existed from ages
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Garrett Cash
Absolutely brilliant. This book isn't so much an introduction to specifically the literature itself of the medieval/renaissance era, but more of an introduction to the mindset they were working under. All of the various ways they viewed things is referred to by Lewis as the Model. The "discarded image" referred to in the title is the image of the way everything is as was seen by the medieval people that we have discarded. This isn't necessarily the place to go to for either a "C.S. Lewis book" ( ...more
Ryan
Though Lewis is known today for his popular theological works, he should be remembered much more for his literary criticism. This is an excellent little introduction to the Medieval worldview and the literature that it produced. It would have been made more relevant for today's audience if he would have gone over seminal authors that everyone in Lewis' Oxbridge circles knew about -- to use it as an actual introduction in a classroom setting, we'd have to have supplementary material on Virgil, Ci ...more
James
Unless you're highly interested in medieval literature or history, this is a fairly dry book and so not one of Lewis' best.

Personally, I found the philosophical tidbits (mainly scattered though out but also at the very end of the book) the most interesting. Lewis does a fine job of explaining how the medieval mind thought about himself, the universe, and everything else. His discussions show that so called "dark ages" were more intellectually developed and nuanced than most moderns think. As far
...more
Kris
Incredibly detailed and researched book, therefore most of the references went over my head. It was, as always, enjoyable to hear Lewis's relaxed tone and thoughtful musings. The subjects move by pretty fast, but amidst the short and concise lists, and random Greek and Latin throw in, it was nice to still discover a few astute and insightful premises. A testament to how widely read and well educated Lewis was.
AE Reiff
Of all the classes taken for a residency requirement at UT-Austin, Seminal Medieval Texts by Kaulback had the best texts, Pseudo-Dionysus the Aeropagite, The Cloud of Unknowning, Boethius' Consolation, Macrobius on the Dream of Scipio, and all the references made to commentaries and cosmology. I sat in other classes, Tom Cranfill's Shakespeare and Ambrose Gordon's Southern Poetry (Aiken, etc.) Whitbread's Crane and Stevens too, crashed Stanley Hall's ballet class, Rao's philosophy class, parageo ...more
David
C.S. Lewis may have set out to give us an "Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature", but what he gave us is an introduction to the Medieval world (the Medieval Model, as he calls it). The Discarded Image is of as much anthropological interest as literary. One needn't even be all too familiar with Medieval literature to find the content fascinating (speaking from experience). Lewis covers the Medieval approach to metaphysics, history, science, art, zoology, biology, geography, astrono ...more
Aneece
A gem of a book. Lewis writes from such abundant knowledge he can afford to withhold most of it. He indicates, rather than tediously explains the mentality and implicit world view that informs medieval literature and culture. Not the last word on the subject, nor even a complete opening statement, but a nice example of how the subject looked when it was still one of the humanities, rather than an excuse for sociological or philosophical shenanigans.


(Fair warning: there is an egregiously racist p
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C. S. Lewis Fans: High Fantasy & The Discarded Image 2 13 Nov 06, 2012 07:51AM  
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CLIVE STAPLES LEWIS (1898–1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than th ...more
More about C.S. Lewis...
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia, #1) The Chronicles of Narnia (Chronicles of Narnia, #1-7) The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Chronicles of Narnia, #3) The Magician's Nephew (Chronicles of Narnia, #6) Prince Caspian (Chronicles of Narnia, #2)

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“Answers to leading questions under torture naturally tell us nothing about the beliefs of the accused; but they are good evidence for the beliefs of the accusers.” 7 likes
“There was nothing medieval people liked better, or did better, than sorting out and tidying up. Of all our modern inventions I suspect that they would most have admired the card index.” 6 likes
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