C. S. Lewis in America: Readings and Reception, 1935–1947, By Mark A. Noll alt

C. S. Lewis in America

Readings and Reception, 1935–1947

Hansen Lectureship Series

by Mark A. Noll
Contributions by Karen Johnson, Kirk D. Farney, and Amy Black

C. S. Lewis in America
  • Length: 176 pages
  • Published: November 14, 2023
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: A0701
  • ISBN: 9781514007013

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Perhaps no other literary figure has transformed the American religious landscape in recent history as much as C. S. Lewis. Even before the international publication and incredible success of his fictional works such as The Chronicles of Narnia or apologetic works like Mere Christianity, Lewis was already being read "across the pond" in America. But who exactly was reading his work? And how was he received?

With fresh research and shrewd analysis, this volume by noted historian Mark A. Noll considers the surprising reception of Lewis among Roman Catholic, mainline Protestant, and evangelical readers to see how early readings of the Oxford don shaped his later influence.

Based on the annual lecture series hosted at Wheaton College's Marion E. Wade Center, volumes in the Hansen Lectureship Series reflect on the imaginative work and lasting influence of seven British authors: Owen Barfield, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, Dorothy L. Sayers, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams.

"This is a deeply informed, fascinating account of the varying fortunes of C. S. Lewis's writings in America. Initial misunderstanding and mistrust give way to respect, and then to reverence, and ultimately to something not far from idolatry. Noll tells the tale vividly, and the responses from Johnson, Farney, and Black point out some vital implications of this history for Christians today. A welcome addition both to Lewis scholarship and contemporary Christian self-reflection."

Alan Jacobs, distinguished professor of humanities at the Honors College, Baylor University

"An invaluable assessment of Lewis's reception in the United States, offering important insights into both Lewis's significance and the distinctives of the American religious mind."

Alister McGrath, Oxford University

"Every time I start to think there is nothing more to say about Lewis, a new book comes out proving me wrong. Mark Noll's C. S. Lewis in America helpfully maps the progress of the Oxford don toward the dominant position he now enjoys as evangelicalism's favorite Brit. Noll and his respondents helpfully evaluate and nuance Lewis's reception here. A valuable contribution to Lewis studies."

Phil Tallon, associate professor of theology at Houston Christian University

"Interesting and informative. Mark Noll sheds light on the various ways American readers received Lewis's early works and, in so doing, illuminates the state of Christianity throughout the United States more generally during the period under examination. A fascinating snapshot and a cleverly oblique approach to the study of church history."

Michael Ward, University of Oxford, author of After Humanity: A Guide to C.S. Lewis's The Abolition of Man

"Mark Noll offers the definitive account of Lewis's reception in mid-twentieth-century America. He skillfully uses that story as a window on the overall state of Christianity in America during an era."

George Marsden, professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame and author of C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity: A Biography

"From elite, secular newspapers to denominational magazines, C. S. Lewis's writings commending the Christian faith had an enthusiastic reception in America. In this prophetic and timely book, preeminent historian Mark A. Noll has uncovered the secret of Lewis's success: he was deeply learned, theologically focused, and unusually creative. Noll himself brilliantly models how to embody these traits today."

Timothy Larsen, McManis Professor of Christian Thought at Wheaton College and author of George MacDonald in the Age of Miracles

"Mark Noll's C. S. Lewis in America gives evidence to the principle that the academic enterprise consists in seeing patterns and exceptions. Without generalizing, no body of knowledge can be passed on to others. And without accounting for exceptions, no generalization is honest. Noll has mastered the art of abstraction. With faithful respect for the particulars, he writes as Georges Seurat painted—he applies each researched point after point to the canvas of his manuscript. What emerges is a masterpiece, unambiguous. The picture is clear. Noll convinces. All who read this book will understand, with good reason, the American fascination with C. S. Lewis."

Jerry Root, author of Splendour in the Dark: C. S. Lewis's Dymer in His Life and Work and professor emeritus at Wheaton College

"One hundred years on, it's almost impossible for us to imagine a C. S. Lewis who was merely an Oxford professor. Mark Noll's story gives us a Lewis before he was famous."

Jason M. Baxter, Notre Dame, author of The Medieval Mind of C. S. Lewis

Read an Excerpt


Preface: G. Walter Hansen
Introduction: Mark A. Noll

1. Surprise: Roman Catholics as Lewis's First and Most Appreciative Readers
Response: Karen J. Johnson

2. "Like a Fresh Wind": Reception in Secular and Mainstream Media
Response: Kirk D. Farney

3. Protestants Also Approve (But Evangelicals, Only Slowly)
Response: Amy E. Black

Appendix: Charles Brady's Two Articles from America on C. S. Lewis in 1944
Image Credits
Name Index
Subject Index


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Mark A. Noll

Mark A. Noll is emeritus professor of history at Wheaton College and the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of many books, including America's Book, Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind, Clouds of Witnesses: Christian Voices from Africa and Asia, The New Shape of World Christianity, The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, and The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.