Timothy Willard
Timothy Willard
Exploring the Contours of Theology, the Writing Life, and Mountain Trails

"Every day, the sun; and after sunset, night and her stars. Ever the winds blow; ever the grass grows. Every day men and women conversing, beholding and beholden. The scholar is he of all men whom this spectacle most engages."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


About My Research

My inquiry began during my time at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. My masters thesis was titled, "A Theology of Personhood." That study informed my first general market book publication Veneer: Living Deeply in a Surface Society. My co-author, Jason Locy, and I examined the ways in which we allow popular-culture to define us a people. It was our belief that too often we look to what we termed the "Language of Culture" to veneer over our true selves. The elements of the Language of Culture are consumption, celebrity-ism, and technological advancement. 

It was during this project that Jason and I began asking questions about beauty. Our second book, Home Behind the Sun, was actually an inquiry into the invisible quality of beauty we sense throughout all of life, even in brokenness. As I reread many of my favorite C.S. Lewis works it became evident that one of Lewis's central themes in all of his writing was beauty. When the opportunity presented itself to study with Professor Alister McGrath, I submitted a proposal focused on beauty and imagination in the works of C.S. Lewis. 

I will be submitting my thesis (the British term for doctoral dissertation) in June of 2015 and am already working on two book proposals as avenues to present my findings; one for the general market, and and one for an academic press. 


Bring me to your university, college, or church to lecture on C.S. Lewis and beauty. Click Here. 


Abstract

My thesis examines formerly disparate literary-thelogical motifs of C.S. Lewis’s writing and suggests these themes to form a cohesive language of beauty. In particular, these motifs include: Sehnsucht, Joy (Lewis’s specialized term), Northernness, the numinous, and beauty. Rather than utilizing a comparative approach to Lewis’s use of beauty, I aim to formulate a distinctive definition of Lewisian beauty by showing how the aforementioned elements reveal an aesthetic progression or experience germane to Lewis’s writing. Furthermore, my analysis highlights Romanticism’s strong influence on Lewis in how it defines and reveals the aesthetic threads found in these concepts thus showing Lewis’s Romanticism as central in his expression of beauty as experience rather than mere Kantian judgement.

Unique to my analysis of Lewis’s language of beauty is the concept of Northernness. Until my research this Lewisian motif was seldom, if ever, treated beyond a mere biographical footnote by Lewis scholars. I offer first-of-its-kind research on the depth of Lewis’s self described “Norse Complex.” I show, from a literary point of view, how Northernness not only contributes to Lewis’s use of literary atmosphere but also, from a conceptual-theologial point of view, how he counters the inherent hopelessness of Northernness, which stems from the Norse apocalypse, with the Christian notion of eucatastrophe—a term coined by his contemporary, colleague, and friend, J.R.R. Tolkien.

Finally, my analysis details Lewis’s phenomenological approach to apologetics (what I term “rhetorical poetics”) by showing how the numinous works within the literary beauty experience to enlarge imaginative capacity for the possibility of the Divine as the source of beauty. Thus, my study does not seek to show how beauty within Lewis’s writing operates as a proof for God. Rather, my study reveals a Lewisian literary theology of beauty that operates as an imaginative gateway into religious experience with the Divine.  


General Market Articles on C.S. Lewis & Beauty