Transposition of Joy in C.S. Lewis
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C.S. Lewis’s lifelong pursuit of ‘Joy,’ in addition to being the focus of two autobiographical texts (Surprised by Joy and The Pilgrim’s Regress) is also manifested throughout his fiction writing. His earliest poetry demonstrates a development in Lewis’s understanding and use of the term, from synonym of Sehnsucht to penultimate sign of the presence of God. ‘Joy’ is first considered in its semantic environment with careful attention given to Lewis’s technical understanding of the desire. A close reading of his earliest poetry collection, Spirits in Bondage, shows a longing to be free from the tyranny of modern life, free to embrace a romantic vision of the world. Dymer (a narrative poem) cools this early passion with the uneasy reflection that longings of this kind are unnatural, destructive, or perhaps mere illusions. Lewis’s subsequent conversion to Christianity marks a change in his attitude toward Joy. No longer the passionate yet blind Joy of Spirits in Bondage, nor the cold and suspicious rejection of Joy in Dymer, Joy in Lewis’s Poems suggests a movement toward personal encounter. Together with The Space Trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Till We Have Faces, Lewis presents a perspective of Joy that includes considerations of human ontology. One key connection between Joy’s modality and human ontology is a process Lewis calls ‘Transposition.’ Transposition enables the experience of Joy as a byproduct of other desires; moreover it reveals the participation between the mind and body, and between the human and God. Joy is the focal point of these operations such that its fulfillment marks both the incarnation of God into human presence and the glorification of man into God’s presence.