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Differences between the original myth of Cupid and Psyche, and C.S. Lewis’ retelling of the myth in Till We Have Faces have the effect of revealing new dimensionality in the Christian understanding of both myth and of the human person. The pre-Christian myth, like the pre-Christian person, is veiled in a darkness that constitutes a reduction from an ideal – a flattening of the fullness of story, or of person.
Lewis retells the myth in the inescapable light of the Incarnation, and in doing so, illuminates and revivifies the notion of personhood, as expressed through its characters. It’s fascinating to note that Lewis wrote this book at about the same time as his autobiographical Surprised by Joy. Peter Schakel, author of Reason and Imagination in C.S. Lewis, believed these two books actually tell one story:
Orual’s account of her life, like Lewis’ account of his own in Surprised by Joy, is retrospective, subjective, and selective. It is striking, then, that suddenly he is able to complete successfully two stories he had long sought to tell but had been unable to: his own story and that of Cupid and Psyche. …Each is a story of consciousness, and of the achievement of wholeness through sacrificial death; and each is the story of Lewis himself.
Add to all that a discussion of the imagery of the veil in the life of a woman – her need for modesty, for beauty, for privacy, for mystery, and for self-revelation to God, and you have one of my favorite talks to give!
Here’s my take on The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis.