This essay is a draft of an article for Lion and Logos: The Life and Legacy of C. S. Lewis, ed. Bruce L. Edwards, Jr., 4 vols. (Greenwood/Praeger, 2007), and appears here by permission.
C. S. Lewis’s most substantial work of literary scholarship, English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Excluding Drama has been praised as brilliant and criticized as unsound. Valued for its learning, its enthusiasm, its insight, and its engaging style, it has been criticized (often by the same scholars) for a misleading set of period labels and an unbalanced portrait of Renaissance Humanism. A reexamination of Lewis’s book will show that the praise it has received is fully justified and the criticism partially so. When all its merits and weaknesses are fully weighed, it remains a testimony to a more humane approach to literary study we would do well to recapture.
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