“The Personal Heresy” is a term coined by C.S. Lewis in a series of lectures he delivered in 1939 and later published as a book with the same title. Lewis was an influential British writer and scholar, known for his works of fiction, such as “The Chronicles of Narnia,” as well as his Christian apologetics and literary criticism. In “The Personal Heresy,” Lewis addresses the question of whether an author’s personal beliefs and experiences should be considered when interpreting and evaluating their literary works. He argues against the prevalent notion that the author’s personality and beliefs should be separated from the work itself, advocating instead for a more personal and holistic approach to literary criticism. Lewis challenges the “impersonal” approach to literary analysis, which focuses solely on the objective qualities of a work and disregards the author’s subjective experiences and worldview. He argues that this approach fails to fully appreciate the personal element that inevitably shapes an author’s writing.
According to Lewis, the personal beliefs and experiences of an author are integral to their work and cannot be divorced from it. He suggests that the author’s deepest beliefs, emotions, and personality seep into their writing, influencing the themes, characters, and overall message of the work. For him, this personal element is essential for understanding and fully appreciating a literary work. Lewis’s concept of “The Personal Heresy” challenges the notion of complete objectivity in literary criticism and suggests that the critic must engage with the author’s personal perspective in order to fully grasp the work’s meaning. He argues that to disregard the personal element is to commit a “heresy” by distorting the true essence of the work. While “The Personal Heresy” has been met with some criticism over the years, it remains a significant contribution to the field of literary criticism. Lewis’s ideas have sparked ongoing debates about the role of the author’s personal beliefs in interpreting literature and the extent to which an author’s intentions should shape our understanding of their work.