Our Experiment in Criticism
Image: 66North / iStock

In 1961, C.S. Lewis, in full ornery Oxford don mode, drew on his experience as a literary scholar and critic to write a little book titled An Experiment in Criticism. It never once mentions the silver screen, but it has a lot to say about how we watch and think about and write about movies.

In this essay, I don't have space to explain why we cover mainstream Hollywood films and small "art house" flicks at Christianity Today, nor to explain—though others have in many venues—why we sometimes talk about movies and TV shows that have content that isn't appropriate for every audience. Instead, I want to tell you what guides me as I write and edit our coverage, why I think criticism is important—and maybe get you to read Lewis's book, too.

Lewis's titular "experiment" is this: instead of judging a book based on its content and style, let's judge it based on how well it allows for a "good" reading (more on that in a moment). So a book of what we might dismissively call genre fiction today (for instance, a work of science fiction or children's literature—Lewis certainly was not a disinterested party here) that can be read "well" is better than a technically impressive but inaccessible book. A good book opens itself to a good reader.

So what is a good reader? He is someone who, first and foremost, loves books. The good reader opens to the first page expecting to be both delighted and challenged. He wants to be changed by the book—to reach the end and be a different person.

A bad reader, by contrast, "rush[es] hastily forward to do things with the work of art instead of waiting for it to do something to them." The bad ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
Previous Watch This Way Columns:
July/August
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Tags:
Read These Next
Current IssueDo We Need a Stronger Word for 'Faith'?
Do We Need a Stronger Word for 'Faith'? Subscriber Access Only
Why theologian Matthew Bates would have evangelicals profess ‘allegiance’ to Christ.
RecommendedWhy We Need Wonder Woman
Why We Need Wonder Woman
Even when it falters, the new female-led film brings freshness to the superhero flick.
TrendingKay Warren: 'We Were in Marital Hell'
Kay Warren: 'We Were in Marital Hell'
Through God's work in our lives, we've beaten the odds that divorce would be the outcome of our ill-advised union.
Editor's PickThe Refugee Ban Is Back, But Church Connections Might Trump It
The Refugee Ban Is Back, But Church Connections Might Trump It
World Relief wants clarification over today’s big Supreme Court decision.
Christianity Today
Our Experiment in Criticism
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

August 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.