To c. S. Lewis: till we have faces


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a myth retold

compiled by H. Lesfloris and I.C. Storey (Trent University)

This bibliography originated as a major paper submitted by HL for a fourth-year course in Classical Literature/English taught by ICS at Trent University in 1994/95. The subject-matter of the course was modern historical fiction with classical settings and the classical sources; one segment dealt with TWHF and Apuleius' original version.

This does not pretend to be a full collection of works about CSL; only those that dealt with TWHF to a reasonable degree were included. We have endeavoured to provide annotations to the various entries wherever possible, to do more than just list secondary works on this strange and powerful (and very atypical) novel by CSL. This proved to be feasible except for the dissertations and the various articles (section XI ), where certain of the journals were not held in the local university libraries. Those that we could not actually consult are marked "[*]".

We welcome corrections, addenda, and especially brief summaries of the works that we did not see. We can be contacted I.C. Storey, c/o Ancient History & Classics, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, K9J 7B8; e-mail can be directed to "" and marked "CSL - TWHF" in the subject area.


I. Publication & editions

II. Reviews

III. C.S. Lewis on TWHF

IV. Commentary

V. Bibliographical Studies of CSL

VI. Dissertations

VII. Full-length studies of TWHF

VIII. TWHF in the CSL-Biographies

IX. TWHF in the full-length studies of C.S. Lewis

X. TWHF in collections of essays on CSL

XI. Articles

XII. Electronic Resources


I. Publication & editions:

(i) 1956 edition published by Geoffrey Bles, London

(ii) 1957 American h/c publication by Harcourt, Brace, New York
(iii) 1966 edition published by Time, New York (Time Reader Series), with a new introduction by T.S. Matthews
(iv) 1971 edition published by W. B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan
(v) 1978 p/b edition published by Fount Paperbacks, London
(vi) 1980 p/b edition published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, with drawings by Fritz Eicherberg (Harvest/HBJ book)
Return to beginning

II. Reviews:

Reviews are cited from Book Review Digest, Book Revew Index, and J. R. Christopher and J. K. Ostling (edd.), C. S. Lewis: An Annotated Checklist of Writings About Him and His Works. Those marked [+] are excerpted in the entries in Book Review Digest vol. 53.
(i) William Blissett, Canadian Forum 36 (January 1957) 238-239

[Compares Lewis's retelling to that of Robert Graves. Blissett thinks the second book is unmythical and the first book to be the more successful: "it is a most remarkable combination of swift narrative and the self-revelation (partly deliberate, partly involuntary) of a complex mind and character which, though fully individual, is also fully representative of a phase in religious history"]

(ii) Richard Mayne, New Statesman & Nation 52 (1956) 351 [+]

["Frankly, I found it hard to stomach, with its 'city of Glome', its 'house of Ungit, its king 'Trom', and its nurse 'Batta'. But many people, I'm sure, will greatly enjoy so bizarre an excursion beyond the frontiers of Professor Lewis's dreams" - quoted from BRD 53 p. 550]

(iii) Ben Ray Redman, Saturday Review 40 (12 January 1957) 15 [+]

[Mr. Lewis has transformed the Apuleius tale into a religious allegory. "In Mr. Lewis's sensitive hands the ancient myth retains its fascination, while being endowed with new meanings, new depths, new terrors"]

(iv) Charles J. Rolo, Atlantic 199 (February 1957) 84--85 [+]

[Views this tale as difficult and obscure with a single reading, but praises its narrative level. "What is remarkable about the novel is that a string of complex psychological dramas - about the nature of love and hate, and other fundamental aspects of the human condition - are played out quite unobtrusively within a swiftly moving tale of barbarism"]

Other Reviews:

America 96 (2 February 1957) 507, 508

Arizona Quarterly 14 (Spring 1958) 81-84

Asbury Seminarian 20 (June 1966) 93-94

Blackfriars 38 (December 1957) 536

Booklist 53 (1 February 1957) 278

Bookmark 16 (February 1957) 109

Book World 10 (19 Oct. 1980) 12

Catholic World 184 (March 1957) 472 [+]

Chicago Review 2 (Summer 1957) 92-94

Chicago Sunday Tribune (20 January 1957) 2 [+]

Choice 24 (Dec. 1986) 597

Christian Century 74 (20 March 1957) 362

Christian Science Monitor (10 January 1957) 7 [+]

Commonweal 65 (8 February 1957) 494 [+]

Emergency Librarian 9 (Jan. 1982) 15

English Journal 77 (Dec. 1988) 72

Eternity 8 (April 1957) 24

Human Events 40 (7 June 1980) 12

Kirkus 24 (1 November 1956) 820 [+]

Library Journal 82 (1 January 1957) 77 [+]

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 12 (June 1957) 10

Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction 14 (March 1958) 110

Manchester Guardian (11 September 1956) 4 [+]

New Republic 136 (21 January 1957) 19 [+]

New York Herald Tribune Book Review (20 January 1957) 3 [+]

New York Times Book Review (13 January 1957) 5 [+]

New York Times Book Review (15 June 1980) 31

New Yorker 32 (9 February 1957) 124

Renascence 10 (Winter 1957) 103-104

San Francisco Chronicle (10 March 1957) 22

Tablet 208 (6 October 1956) 278

Time 69 (28 January 1957) 108

Times Literary Supplement (21 September 1956) 551

Time and Tide 37 (13 October 1956) 1227-1228

Wisconsin Library Bulletin 53 (May 1957) 401

[excerpts from the reviews by T.H. White (Time & Tide), G. Meath (Blackfriars), Chad Walsh (The New York Herald Tribune Book Review), C.J. Rolo (Atlantic Monthly), Riley Hughes (Catholic World), and Ben Ray Redman (The Saturday Review) are provided at Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 262-3]

Return to beginning

III. C.S. Lewis on TWHF:

(i) Note by CSL as an introduction to the British editions (nrr. 1, 4 above) - a 3-page summary of the story as told by Apuleius plus his own comments on his version:

The central alteration in my own version consists in making Psyche's palace invisible to normal, mortal eyes - if 'making' is not the wrong word for something which forced itself upon me, almost at my first reading of the story, as the way the thing must have been. This change of course brings with it a more ambivalent motive and a different character for my heroine and finally modifies the whole quality of the tale. I felt quite free to go behind Apuleius, whom I suppose to have been its transmitter, not its inventor...but in relation to my work he is a 'source', not an 'influence' nor a 'model'.

(ii) Further note in the introduction to the British editions: ("on another occasion")

This re-interpretation of an old story has lived in the author's mind, thickening and hardening with the years, ever since he was an undergraduate. That way, he could be said to have worked at it most of his life. Recently, what seemed to be the right form presented itself and themes suddenly interlocked: the straight tale of barbarism, the mind of an ugly woman, dark idolatry and pale enlightenment at war with each other and with vision, and the havoc which a vocation, or even a faith, works on human life.

(iii)Entry in CSL's diary for 23 November 1922:

...After lunch I went out for a walk up Shotover, thinking how to make a masque or play of Psyche and Caspian.

[in W. Hooper (ed.), All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C.S. Lewis 1922-27, (London: HarperCollins, 1991) 142]

(iv) Entry in CSL's diary for 9 September 1923:

My head was very full of my old idea of a poem on my own version of the Cupid and Psyche story in which Psyche's sister would not be jealous, but unable to see anything but moors when Psyche showed her the Palace. I have tried it twice before, once in couplet and once in ballad form.

[fragments of these early versions of the story of Psyche are found in the Lewis Papers vol. viii, pp. 163-4; some lines from the couplets are quoted by Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 246-7; also cited by Green & Hooper (see VIII.i) 261 and Donaldson (see VII.i) 11; also in W. Hooper (ed.), All My Road Before Me: The Diary of C.S. Lewis 1922-27, (London: HarperCollins, 1991) 266; and in Adley (see IX.i) 153]

(v) Letter to Katherine Ferrer, 2 April 1955:

I've given up the Phoenix story for the present. An old, 25 year old idea having just started into imperative life! My version of Cupid, Psyche. Apuleius got it all wrong. The older sister (I reduce her to one) couldn't see Psyche's palace when she visited her. Hence her dreadful problem: "is P mad or am I blind?" As you see, tho' I didn't start from that, it is the story of every nice affectionate agnostic whose dearest one suddenly "gets religion", or every luke warm Christian whose dearest gets a vocation. Never, I think, treated sympathetically by a Christian writer before. I do it all thru the mouth of the elder sister. In a word, I'm much with book.

[cited by Glover (see IX.x) 187 and Donaldson (see VII.i) 12; also Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 249]
9 July 1955

About Psyche herself your diagnosis is wrong, but that only shows I have failed to get across what I intended. Pin-up girl, nothing! The attempt was precisely to show the biddable ideal daughter, Maia's little pet (the ideal object for a devouring maternal love, the live doll), turning into the, sometimes terrifying, sometimes maternal, goddess. I'll try to mend it, but not, I think, in the directions you suggest. I think she must have the same deep voice as Orual: for 'you also are Psyche'. The whole thing is very tricky, though. The numinous breaking through the childish mustn't be made just like the mature breaking through the juvenile; the traits of eternal youth have to come in.

[cited at Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 250-1]

(vi)Letter to Christian Hardie, 31 July 1955:

The idea of re-writing the old myth, with the palace invisible, has been in my mind ever since I was an undergraduate and it always involved writing through the mouth of the elder sister. I tried it in all sorts of verse-forms in the days when I still supposed myself to be a poet. So, though the version you have read was very quickly written, you might say I've been at work on Orual for 35 years. Of course in my pre- Christian days she was to be in the right and the gods in the wrong.

[cited at Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 251]

(vii)Letters to Jocelyn Gibb (CSL's publisher):

16 February 1956:

[Gibb had written rejecting Lewis' preferred title, Bareface, on the grounds that readers would mistake it for a Western]

I don't see why people ... would be deterred from buying it if they did think it a Western. ... Actually, I think the title cryptic enough to be intriguing.

[cited at Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 252]
21 February 1956:

[cited by Adley (see IX.i) 151 n. 94]

Defending the original title, "Bareface", he pleads that everyone that he has consulted prefers it.
29 February 1956:

One other possible title has occurred to me: Till We Have Faces. (My heroine says in one passage, 'How can the gods meet us face to face till we have faces?')

[cited at Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 252]
11 April 1956:

[cited by Adley (see IX.i) 152 n. 95]

Somewhat testily, he rejected two wrapper designs, insisting on the representation of the goddess Ungit by a brand of red rock inscribed with the wrinkles of a hideously aged female face, and of Aphrodite's statue by a figure like the early Greek original in being stiff rather than provocative.
2 May 1956:

[cited by Adley (see IX.i) 152 n. 96]

Finally, to spare Joy embarrassment, he had the dedication printed on a different page from the frontal motto "Love is too young to know what conscience is".

(viii) Letter to Arthur Greeves, 13 May 1956:

You always say (truly enough) that I'm a bad proof-reader. I may be getting proofs of my new Cupid & Psyche story in June. If there's time to send you one copy wd. you care to do me a kindness by going through it? Don't, if it is in the least a bother. You'd have about 10 days probably to do it in and the book is a little longer than S. by J.

[cited in W. Hooper (ed.), They Stand Together: The Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, (New York: Collins, 1979) 540-1]

(ix) Letter to Professor Clyde S. Kilby, 10 February 1957:

An author doesn't necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else, so I give you my account of TWHF simply for what it's worth. The "levels" I am conscious of are these:

Lewis then gives four levels which have become starting-points for many critics: (i) "a guess of what it might have been like in a little barbarous state on the borders of the Hellenistic world of Greek culture", (2) "Psyche is an instance of the anima naturaliter Christiana" (3) "Orual is ... an instance, a 'case' of human affection in its natural condition", and (4) the reaction of a family or a community to one of its members "finding religion".

[in W.H. Lewis (ed.), Letters of C. S. Lewis, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966) 273-4 [rev. ed., (London: Fount paperbacks, 1988) 462-463.]

(x)Letter to Anne and Martin Kilmer, 7 August 1957:

I am so glad you both like Till We Have Faces. I think it my best book but not many people agree.


I think, Anne, the 3 sisters are not v[ery] like goddesses. They're just human souls. Psyche has a vocation and becomes a saint. Orual lives the practical life and is, after many sins, saved. As for Redival - well, we'll all hope the best for everyone.

[L.W. Dorsett & M.L. Mead (edd.), C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, (London: Collins, 1985) 73-4.]

(xi) Letter to Joan Lancaster, 20 April 1959:

I am so glad you liked Till We Have Faces, because so few people do. It is my biggest 'flop' for years, and so of course, I think it is my best book.

[L.W. Dorsett & Mead (edd.), C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, (London: Collins, 1985) 87-8.]

(xii) Letter to Father Peter Milward SJ, 24 September 1959:

The main themes are (1) Natural affection, if left to mere nature, easily becomes a special kind of hatred, (2) God is, to our natural affections, the ultimate object of jealousy.

[cited at Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 250, 862 nr. 76]
(xiii) Letter to Anne Scott, 26 August 1960:

You gave me much pleasure by what you said about Till We Have Faces, for that book, which I consider far and away the best I have written, has been my one big failure both with the critics and with the public.

[cited at Hooper, Companion (see IX.xv) 243]
(xiv)Letter from CSL to Meredith, 6 December 1960:

3. Which of my books do I think most "representational"? Do you mean (a.)Most representative, most typical, most characteristic? or (b.) Most full of "representations". i.e. images. But whichever you mean, surely this is a question not for me but for my readers to decide. Or do you mean simply which do I like best? Now the answer would be Till We Have Faces or Perelandra.

[L.W. Dorsett & Mead (edd.), C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, (London: Collins, 1985) 95]

(xv)Letter from CSL to Patricia, 26 March 1963:

Your letter was cheering, for Till We Have Faces has attracted less attention than any book I ever wrote. The names are just "made up". I expect some Jungianisms do come in but the main conscious prosework is Christian, not Jungian. Divine Love gradually conquers, first a Pagan (and almost savage) soul's misconception of the Divine (as Ungit), then shallow "enlightenment" (the Fox), and most of all, her jealousy of the real God, whom she hates till near the end because she wants Psyche to be entirely hers.

[L.W. Dorsett & Mead (edd.), C.S. Lewis, Letters to Children, (London: Collins, 1985) 107]
(xvi) Letter to Dorothea Conybeare:

How can they (i.e. the gods) meet us face to face till we have faces? The idea was that a human being must become real before it can expect to receive any message from the superhuman; that is, it must be speaking with its own voice (not one of its borrowed voices), expressing its actual desires (not what it imagines that it desires), being for good or ill itself, not any mask, veil, or persona.

[cited at Constance Babington Smith, Letters to a Sister from Rose Macaulay, (1964) 261; also at Hooper, Companion (see IX.xiv) 252]
(xvii)Recollection by Charles Wrong of a meeting with CSL, 8 August 1959:

We discussed a number of topics, which follow here in no special order. On his novel, Till We Have Faces, which I had recently read: "A complete flop", he said, "the worst flop I've ever had. I must admit it's my favorite of all my books, but I suppose that's because it's the last" ... I mentioned that, as an admirer of the books of the late Monsignor R.A. Knox, I had been disappointed in his monumental Enthusiasm, an account of the different heresies through eighteen centuries or so. "It's exrtraordinary", said Lewis, what a bad book it is. I suppose an author's favorite often is; like Till We Have Faces."

[C. Wrong, "A Chance Meeting", in Como (see IX.v) 109, 113]

Return to beginning

IV. Commentary:

N.C. Starr, C. S. Lewis's "Till We Have Faces". Introduction and Commentary , (New York: Seabury Press, 1968) pp. 23.

["radical departure from his others in subject matter, form, and style" (4); "an extraordinarily subtle tale of a person's lifelong attempt to achieve release from the burden of sin" (10-11); discusses prominent themes of love and how their meanings relate to Lewis's Four Loves; discusses TWHF as Christian allegory; Orual's death as a spiritual transformation (17); Psyche as parallel to Christ (18-19); "the most concentrated and the most powerful expression of Lewis's religious belief to be found in any of his novels" (21).]

V. Bibliographical Studies of CSL:

(i) Joe R. Christopher, and Joan K. Ostling, C. S. Lewis: An Annotated Checklist of Writings About Him and His Works, (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1974) 117-119, 290-295

[useful annotated bibliography of studies about Lewis and his works; secondary sources on TWHF (17-9); reviews (290-5); time-frame is c.1919 to 1972]

(ii) Z. Karimpour, "A Descriptive Bibliography of C.S. Lewis's Fiction: 1938-1981" (PhD thesis: Oklahoma State University, 1985) [*]
(iii) Susan Lowenberg, C.S. Lewis: a reference guide 1972-1988, (New York: Hall, 1993)

[continues the survey of CSL from where Christopher & Ostling leave off; entries are listed alphabetically by year, but TWHF entries are indexed on p. 302]

Return to beginning
VI. Dissertations:

As there have been over a hundred dissertations on CSL since 1972, only those which bear directly on TWHF have been included. In most cases, we were not able to see the thesis and have relied on the summaries in DA and in the DAI CD-Rom data-base.

(i) J.Q. Becker, "Patterns of Guilt and Grace in the development and function of character in C.S. Lewis' Romances", (PhD thesis: University of Washington, 1981)
(ii) R. S. St John Clucas, "Myth and Fantasy in Faith and Mission", (Mth thesis: University of South Africa, 1983)
(iii) M.E. Donaldson, "Narratives of Transformation: C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces and Paul Ricoeur's Theory of Metaphor", (PhD thesis: Emory University, 1984), summarised in DA 45:8 (1985) 2522-3A.
(iv) J.D. Haigh, "The Fiction of C.S. Lewis", (PhD dissertation: Leeds, 1962)
(v) J.A. Hajjar, "Spiritual Quest in French and English Post-War Novels", (PhD thesis: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1982)
(vi) D.A. Hart, "C.S. Lewis's Defense of Poesie", (PhD thesis: University of Wisconsin, 1959), summarised in DA 20 p. 3293A

(vii) M.B. Hook, "Christian Meaning in the Novels of C.S. Lewis", (M.A. thesis: Southern Methodist University, 1959)

(viii) R.M. Kawano, "Reason and Imagination: the shape of C.S. Lewis", (PhD thesis: University of Utah, 1974), summarised in DA 35:11, p. 7310A
(ix) J.D. Loney, "Reality, Truth, and Perspective in the Fiction of C.S. Lewis", (PhD thesis: McMaster University, 1983)
(x) P.A. McKenzie, "The Last Battle: violence and theology in the novels of C.S. Lewis", (PhD thesis: University of Florida, 1979), summarised in DA 36:2 p. 907A
(xi) L.O. McMillan, "C.S. Lewis as Spiritual Autobiographer: A Study in the Sacramental Imagination", (PhD thesis: University of Notre Dame, 1986), summarised in DA 47:3 (1986) p. 913-4A.
(xii) L.S. Melanson, "The Hero's Quest for Identity in Fantasy Literaure: a Jungian analysis", (PhD thesis: University of Massachusetts, 1994)
(xiii) J.W. Neuleib, "The Concept of Evil in the Fiction of C.S. Lewis", (PhD thesis: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1974), summarised in DA 35:7, p. 4539A
(xiv) R.F. Orme-Johnson, "Psyche's Descent into theUnderworld: the transcending pattern in myth and literature", (PhD thesis: University of Maryland at Colege Park, 1984)
(xv) A.F. Reddy, "The Else Unspeakable: an introduction to the fiction of C.S. Lewis", (PhD thesis: University of Masachusetts, 1972), summarised in DA 33:6 p. 2949A
(xvi) L.D. Rossi, "The Politics of Fantasy: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien", (PhD thesis: Cornell University, 1972), summarised in DA 33:9 p. 5195A
(xvii) P.G. Saunders, "The Idea of Love in the Writings of C.S. Lewis", (PhD thesis: Ball State University, 1987)

(xviii) G. Urang, "The Shadows of Heaven: the uses of fantasy in the fiction of C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and J.R.R. Tolkien", (PhD thesis: University of Chicago, 1970)

(xix) D.A. Wood, "The Pattern In the Myth: Archetypal Elements in C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces", (PhD thesis: University of Tulsa, 1976), summarised at DA 37 (1976) 1575A
(xx) M.E. Wright, "The Cosmic Kingdom of Myth: a study in the myth-philosophy of Charles Williams, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien", (PhD thesis: University of Illinois, 1959) esp. pp. 55f., 86f., 114, 138-48, 152-7, 164-70, 185f.

[M.E. Wright's untimely death in 1959 robbed CSL-studies of a very able critic; -her analyses of CSL and myth are always pointed and acute, although TWHF receives less attention than the Ransom-trilogy]

(xxi) R. Wright, "Biblical Allusions in C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces", (MA thesis: Florida Atlantic University, 1982)
Return beginning

VII. Full-length studies of TWHF:

(i) M.E. Donaldson, Holy Places are Dark Places: C.S. Lewis and Paul Ricoeur on Narrative Transformation, (Lanham: University Press of American,1988)

[one of two major full-length studies on TWHF; her approach is "narratives of transformation" with emphasis on the metaphors "you are also Psyche" and ""holy places are dark places"; excellent summary of previous critical views, plus observation that most take CSL as the book's subtext and few approach the work as work of literature or try to understand the technique involved; an important study]

(ii) P.J. Schakel, Reason and Imagination in C.S. Lewis: A Study of Till We Have Faces, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984)

[provides tremendous help in understanding Lewis's 'difficult' and best achievement in fiction which, as many critics have noted, requires more than one reading; the first half of the text leads the reader step by step through the story discussing plot, themes, characters, structure, symbols, allusions; the second part of the book places TWHF in context by examining it through the corpus of Lewis's works; "it will yield, therefore, adult-level understandings of Lewis, of life, and of oneself" (8); reveals the full value of myth in conveying eternal and universal truths to the receptive heart and mind" (57); "It is the most universal of Lewis's works; at the same time it is the most closely personal of Lewis's works." (162); studies the change that came over Lewis' writings in the 1950s -- reason will lead to truth, but imagination to reality]

: ~pribeiro -> DCM-Lewis-2009 -> Lewis
Lewis -> The magician's nephew
Lewis -> J. R. R. Tolkien
Lewis -> The Pilgrim’s Regress: Notes on Quotations and Allusions compiled by Arend Smilde, Utrecht, The Netherlands
Lewis -> The horse and his boy
Lewis -> C. S. Lewis said something about religion that is both obvious and profound, meaning in practice that it's almost universally ignored. To paraphrase, The most important thing about any religion is simply whether
Lewis -> The voyage of the dawn treader
Lewis -> Unsorted Quotes, Devotional Bits, "Good 'uns," and Beloved Bible Passages I really, really, really will get these organized someday!!
Lewis -> The Practical Theology of C. S. Lewis sm 94
Lewis -> The Screwtape Letters, cs lewis Rivermont Presbyterian Church Bible Study Guide
Lewis -> The pilgrim's regress

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