Friday, September 30 | 11:10-12:15 pm
FACE-SELF | Room 210 (Instrumental Hall)
C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces: A Theological Exploration through the Visual Metabolization of Texts
Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis is usually understood as a lens for spiritual theology, namely how is it that I become a self? While this lens is a necessary one, I believe far more may be extrapolated from the novel, specifically from the standpoint of the intersection of personhood and freedom.
Through the journey of Orual, we are exposed to the destructive consequences of autonomous limitless freedom. Her private, delusional, and deceptive orientation is both an escape from the inherent responsibility of freedom, which leads directly to her self-loss. At the end of the novel, through a divinely aided and prompted “right-reading” of her particular albeit deceived life, comes the gaining of a true self and “right-oriented praise”.
And yet, our culture is one that is losing its ability to respond to the complexity and particularity of the human face. Skirting true intimacy in favor of simplistic, fast and inauthentic ways of relating, our theology of freedom and personhood suffers without much notice. My goal is to explore what is at stake with the loss of the face as the idea of limitless, self-constituted freedom, and to show that freedom is in fact not autonomous, but rather a function of personal particularity. It is actually in the turning outward, the risk of showing our face, that we gain our face. This will be accomplished in a presentation that is centered on a six piece visual body of artwork, each depicting a critical moment translated from this mysterious novel.
Rachel Telian is a mixed-media artist inspired by the idea of art as a theological language, and thrives at the intersections of various disciplines. She uses her love of language, literature and theological writing as an inspiration, and believes her life’s work is to visually metabolize texts, exploring the inter-relationship of the image and the word. This inkling motivated the visual exploration of Lewis’s Till We Have Faces. Another way of saying this is that she believes wholeheartedly in the incarnation. Telian recently completed her Masters in Theology, Imagination and the Arts at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology in Seattle, Washington, USA.
The Naked Self? C.S. Lewis and Human Identity
Andrew TJ Kaethler
In Till We Have Faces, Orual is transformed into another Psyche. Stripped naked before the judges, she peers into a pool seeing the reflection of beautiful naked Psyche, not just one Psyche but two--“You also shall be Psyche.” In this mythical vision Orual’s deification appears to strip away her unique identity: Orual is identical to Psyche. How does this match with what Lewis writes in Mere Christianity: “There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. Sameness is to be found most among the most ‘natural’ men, not among those who surrender to Christ. How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints.” Turning to The Four Loves, The Great Divorce, and Lewis’ collected letters, this paper will explicate Lewis’ conception of identity. The aim is twofold. First, by explicating Lewis’ relational ontology Orual’s identification with Psyche will be reconciled with the uniqueness of personhood that Lewis puts forth in Mere Christianity. Second, the paper will highlight how Lewis imaginatively and narratively inverts the modern/enlightenment view of the human person and thus demonstrates that true identity is found in relation, ultimately in relational participation with Christ (deification). In so doing, Lewis critiques culture at a fundamental level, and by creatively defamiliarising the human person he offers a rich vision of identity.
Andrew TJ Kaethler, PhD, teaches theology and philosophy at Catholic Pacific College. His broad area of research is theological anthropology. More specifically he has focused on temporality and personhood in the theology of Joseph Ratzinger and Alexander Schmemann. His most recent publications can be found in Logos, Modern Theology, and New Blackfriars. Andrew has taught courses on the Inklings in Europe and in Canada and never ceases to be impressed by the range and depth of thought that the Inklings and their mentors probe.