Thursday, February 24, 2011

C.S. Lewis Phenomenon: Donegality

Michael Ward, in his book Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis invents a a new phrase in order to describe Lewis's way of drawing the reader into something unaware; a phenomenon Ward calls "Donegality." Ward derives the name from Donegal, Ireland, a favorite place of Lewis's to visit as a young boy. The concept means something like getting caught in the trap of an artist. Sometimes a writer will have a secret agenda within his art and the reader will get caught up into it unexpectedly but simultaneously, the reader will delight in that "trap." Lewis's short essay Meditation in a Tool Shed on getting caught in a sunbeam is a fine introduction to what Ward means by Donegality. Lewis was a master at this sort of thing as evidenced here by this quote from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Take notice of how the narrator draws the reader in by asking the question at the end.

Next day they began marching eastward down the side of the great river. And the next day after that, at about teatime, they reached the mouth. The castle of Cair Paravel on its little hill towered up above them; before them were the sands, with rocks and little pools of salt water, and seaweed, and the smell of the sea and long miles of blueish-green waves breaking forever and ever on the beach. And oh, the cry of the seagulls! Have you heard it? Can you remember?

And then contrast the above quote with Lewis's words from his autobiography Surprised by Joy on visiting Donegal, as a child. Concerning the waves on the beach he said...

"...the wave, the monstrous, emerald, deafening waves, are always the winner, and it is at once a joke, a terror and a joy to look over your shoulder and see (too late) one breaker of such subline proportions that you would have avoided him had you known he was coming. But they gather themselves up, pre-eminent above their fellows, as suddenly and unpredictably as a revolution."

Of course the whole thought of all these things is being "caught up" in something much bigger than ourselves and relishing in the Enjoyment of it! It's all jolly good, Jovial, even!


Garthegn said...

Excellent post

Brother Juniper said...

Thank you! I'm reading Planet Narnia now and hadn't a clue as to the meaning of "donegality."

Adrian Tamblyn-Watts said...

Thank you for your explanation. Currently reading Ward as part of my furious mining and digging in preparation for the presentation of a research proposal.