Friday, April 14, 2017

A Lewisian anti-epigram

Life is as habit-forming as cocaine.
-- C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

On the face of it, that is a zinger, of no very clear meaning,  jejune and shallow.  From the pen of an Oscar Wilde, it would have been exactly that.
In fact, it is a serious statement, only incidentally somewhat epigrammatic.  It occurs during Lewis’s discussion of G.K.C.’s Manalive (the scene about dangling the God-mocker out the window).  It is one step in a complex argument which I shall not attempt to summarize.   It is thus an anti-epigram (the antiparticle of an epigram):  whereas an epigram, for what it’s worth, survives its loss of context, seeking only to glitter, CSL’s observation is rigorously contextual.

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