In this week’s TLS – a note from the Editor
The philosopher Anthony Kenny, one of the clearest modern writers to wrestle with the difficulties of Christian belief, this week considers the religious warfare within the work of C. S. Lewis. Reviewing a new biography of the author of the Narnia stories, he praises its careful correction of many previous accounts, that by Lewis himself being the one “most in need of emendation”. He notes the argument over whether Elizabeth Anscombe, a more formidable Christian philosopher than Lewis by far, was rewarded for her ferocity by a characterization as the White Witch. Nowadays, Lewis’s theological works “preach mainly to the converted”.
Battles between Christian and pagan were no less fiercely fought among the ancient commentators on Aristotle. David Sedley praises the ninety-ninth volume of a massive project of the past twenty-five years to translate into English all the scholarship of such men as Simplicius and John Philoponus, great scholars with an immense armoury of scorn and “derogatory epithets”. Volume Ninety-nine concerns the offence to Christian doctrine caused by eighteen different fifth-century arguments for the world’s having no beginning and no end.
Oscar Wilde’s interest in ancient philosophy is familiarly described in terms of “Plato and sexual intimacy between men”, writes Joseph Bristow, reviewing a new study by Iain Ross. The influence of Wilde’s archaeologist father is often neglected. The playwright had a very “advanced classical education”, and was deeply imbued with the conflict between the new archaeology and more traditional textual criticism. In extending the feuds of scholars into The Picture of Dorian Gray the author, however, goes a little too far.
There has been no more potent explosion of Christianity and paganism in the modern age than Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, described by the composer’s friend Robert Craft in a centenary appreciation as “the image of God as expressed in the primitivism of pagan Russia”. Craft interprets Stravinsky’s own faint pencilled instructions on how the work should be danced.
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