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August 27, 2010

C.S. Lewis Expert Michael Ward to Discuss His Book “Planet Narnia” on Sept. 29

While children and adults have long been enchanted by the adventurous stories of C.S. Lewis in the seven-volume "Chronicles of Narnia," critics have looked for a unifying theme to provide coherence to a seemingly disorganized collection.

Michael Ward, author of "Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis," argues that the symbolic coherence of the "Chronicles" rests on medieval cosmology and its imagery of the seven heavens.

Ward will talk about his book at the Library of Congress at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 29, in the West Dining Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by the Humanities and Social Sciences Division, is free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are needed.

C.S. Lewis delighted in secrets and constructing codes. Previous thematic theories by a variety of scholars for the "Chronicles of Narnia" have included the seven sacraments, the seven deadly sins and Edmund Spenser’s epic poem "The Faerie Queene."

In "Planet Narnia," Ward provides the key to the code—medieval cosmology. According to astronomers before Copernicus in the 16th century, the seven heavens contained the seven planets which revolved around Earth and exerted influences over people and events. From his childhood, Lewis had a strong interest in the planets and in the gods associated with them in mythology. This fascination was reflected in other novels, in a long, alliterative poem "The Planets" and in Lewis’ astronomical observations detailed in correspondence. In addition to a wealth of Christian metaphors, Ward reveals that the seven Narnia stories each express the characteristics of the seven medieval planets—Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Luna, Mercury, Venus and Saturn.

Ward, a leading expert on the works of C.S. Lewis, is chaplain of St. Peter’s College at the University of Oxford and associate editor of the online "Davey’s Daily Poetry." An Anglican clergyman, Ward served as chaplain of Peterhouse at the University of Cambridge from 2004 to 2007. From 1996 to 1999, he was warden of The Kilns, Lewis’ Oxford home.

Ward studied English at Oxford and theology at Cambridge and holds a doctorate in divinity from St. Andrews. The 2008 publication of "Planet Narnia" by Oxford University Press was followed by a popular BBC documentary "The Narnia Code." Ward has also co-edited "Heresies and How to Avoid Them" and the upcoming "Cambridge Companion to C.S. Lewis."

The Humanities and Social Sciences Division provides reference service and collection development in the Main, Local History and Genealogy, and Microform reading rooms at the Library of Congress. It regularly sponsors programs in the arts, humanities and social sciences.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds nearly 145 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.

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PR 10-189
08/27/10
ISSN 0731-3527

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