At the 2019 Symposium, we had the delightful opportunity to visit with Dr. John Briggs (University of California, Riverside), in a conversation about the work of C.S. Lewis.
In particular, we discussed An Experiment in Criticism (1961), one of Lewis’ later works that focuses on the nature of reading. The “experiment” that Lewis is describing an experience of reading by which the reader is immersed in the text and the imagination of the author, “diving in,” as Lewis phrases it. As Dr. Briggs explains, this form of reading had a special meaning for Lewis, for by it the reader embraces the “virtue of wanting something higher, more complete.”
Briggs points out that even in 1961, when the volume was published, Lewis decried many of the activities of higher education as undoing the humane and fulfilling experience of such readers. The critical apparatus and skeptical disposition of scholars toward the spirited nature of human beings has left many “wanting something higher.”
Enter classical education, particularly in the formative grades of K-12. For Dr. Briggs, the work of schools like Great Hearts Academies provides a rich pedagogy that sidesteps the technologizing pedagogies of the present, preferring to witness and cultivate “the unfolding of a child’s humanity.”
Dr. John Briggs is professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, whose scholarship on C.S. Lewis, Lincoln, Shakespeare, and Renaissance literature provide a rich introduction to the kind of readers Lewis hoped to encourage. Briggs also serves as an Academic Advisor to the Institute for Classical Education.