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The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature
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The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature

4.21  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,401 Ratings  ·  115 Reviews
Hailed as the final memorial to the work of a great scholar and teacher and a wise and noble mind, this work paints a lucid picture of the medieval world view, as historical and cultural background to the literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
Paperback, 231 pages
Published 2010 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1964)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Apr 03, 2012 Terry rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 25, 2010 Ron rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 15, 2009 Brian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Brittany Petruzzi
Jul 10, 2012 Brittany Petruzzi rated it really liked it
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
Mark Adderley
May 23, 2009 Mark Adderley rated it it was amazing
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 Robbins
May 16, 2013 Brian Robbins rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 14, 2014 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
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
Catherine Gillespie
Feb 26, 2015 Catherine Gillespie rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, history
You probably know that CS Lewis was a professor of literature at Oxford, not just the guy who wrote the Narnia books. I was interested to read his thoughts in his academic specialty, and literary criticism interests me, so I read The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. To my surprise and delight, the book turns out to be not only about literature, but about how medieval writers were influenced by the ancient world, and how that influenced their understanding ...more
Daniel Wright
More of a preface for people about to read medieval literature than an introduction to the major works (though Lewis alludes to plenty), The Discarded Image, describing what Lewis calls the 'medieval model', or, the basic assumptions that they took for granted which we have since dispensed with, is both an excellent reference work for the general or academic reader of medieval texts and an intriguing book in its own right.
Felipe Oquendo
Apr 12, 2016 Felipe Oquendo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lidos-em-2016
A Imagem Descartada é o último livro de C.S. Lewis, já publicado postumamente, com base em um curso dado em Oxford. Embora a ideia do autor seja dar uma noção do Modelo de Universo que estava na crença (entendida no sentido orteguiano da palavra) dos medievais, a fim de permitir a melhor compreensão das obras desse período, o fato é que o livro passeia por diversas áreas, desde crenças espirituais pagãs e cristãs, passando por modelos cosmológicos estranhos e ao mesmo tempo fascinantes, engloban ...more
Ellen Bleaney
Jul 22, 2014 Ellen Bleaney rated it it was amazing
If this book doesn't make you love Medieval studies, I don't know what will.
Aug 14, 2011 Heather rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 2010 Mark rated it it was amazing
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
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
Mar 06, 2016 Thomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
CS Lewis was a master medievalist, and in this short book he lays out the medieval model of the world and the influences that created it. An essential companion to the literature of the Middle Ages.
Feb 05, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
C.S. Lewis' final book, detailing the particulars of the discarded image of medieval thought -- that is, the model of the universe believed to be true during the Middle Ages. In this study, Lewis explodes some commonly accepted views of medieval thought and belief. For example, it is widely accepted that people in that age were superstitious, naive, and primitive, thinking that the world was flat and populated with spirits. In actuality, the medieval days were characterized by an obsession with ...more
Ben De Bono
Jun 20, 2015 Ben De Bono rated it it was amazing
Lewis' theology and novels are all well and good, but if you want his best work you need to go to his "day job" - literary criticism. The Discard Image, his final book before his death, is a prime example of his literary genius. For anyone even remotely interested in medieval thought and/or literature, this is an indispensable resource.

In some ways, the book reminded me of John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One. In Walton's book, the creation narrative in Genesis is placed within the conte
Nathan Albright
Apr 25, 2016 Nathan Albright rated it it was amazing
Shelves: challenge
This book ranks as one of the later books of C.S. Lewis, and certainly one of his less well-known books, but in retrospect, looking back on his entire career as a prolific writer and as an intellectual [1], this book must surely be reckoned by those who are familiar with it as one of the most important books in his oeuvre because of the way in which this volume brings together so many of the aspects of Lewis’ thinking and, perhaps even more importantly, the influences that formed his own writing ...more
Feb 03, 2010 Andreas rated it it was amazing
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.
What a fabulous book, such rich thoughts and deep insights. Reminds me what we are losing in our age of "express yourself in only 140 characters". This is a book worth reading and studying and pouring over and mulling over. Also makes me realize how pitiful my education has been to miss the richness of such literature of the past!
Fantasy Literature
Mar 15, 2015 Fantasy Literature rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 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. In The Discarded Image, 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 th ...more
Wayne Craske
Oct 14, 2015 Wayne Craske rated it it was amazing
I'm going to break with my tradition of waiting until I finish a book to write the review and update this regularly as I read it.
So far, I've only read the first two chapters- about a tenth of the book. But it has already engaged me in a way very few books have done recently, a way that already has me believing I'm going to keep returning to it until I have fully absorbed everything it has to offer.
The first two chapters are entitled, 'The medieval situation'- a brief look at the mind-set of the
Don (The Book Guy)
The Discarded Image by C. S. Lewis is his last published work. The book arises out of his work as a scholar and deals with the literature of Medieval times and the Renaissance. His main theme is the model that people of those times had of the world versus how we look at the world and how that affects how we understand their writings. I have to admit this is like a textbook and because of my lack of Latin and studies of older literature, much of it went over my head. Yet, I found that what he wro ...more
Douglas Wilson
May 17, 2009 Douglas Wilson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-study
Excellent. World class.
J. Walker
Feb 20, 2016 J. Walker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant! Just brilliant!
IT starts out as an examination of the medieval Model of the Universe, but it ends up being a discussion of worldview and paradigm shift.
It's another one of those "successive mind explosion" experiences!
It stimulated me so much, I posted half of the Epilogue (I exaggerate) to my Facebook page as I read it.

as adapted: 'Another interesting observation: When science fiction was in it birthpangs, "if you asked an astronomer about 'life on other worlds', he was apt to be tot
May 06, 2014 Bigmg rated it it was amazing
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
Dave Maddock
Nov 02, 2015 Dave Maddock rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: criticism, inklings
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,
Jennifer Freitag
Dec 30, 2012 Jennifer Freitag rated it it was amazing
Shelves: c-s-lewis
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
Aug 04, 2011 Edward Waters rated it it was amazing
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
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C. S. Lewis Fans: High Fantasy & The Discarded Image 2 16 Nov 06, 2012 07:51AM  
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  • The Monsters and the Critics and other essays
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  • The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and Their Friends
  • Biblia Sacra Vulgata
  • Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
  • Lenten Lands: My Childhood with Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis
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  • The Making of the Middle Ages
  • Morphology of the folktale
  • Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages
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
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“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.” 9 likes
“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.” 8 likes
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