Downing, David C. 1951-
Downing, David C. 1951-
(David Claude Downing)
PERSONAL: Born January 31, 1951, in New York, NY; son of James W. (an executive) and Morena M. (a homemaker) Downing; married, August 17, 1974, wife's name Crystal. Education: Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1973; University of California, Los Angeles, M.A., 1975, Ph.D., 1977.
CAREER: University of California, Los Angeles, teaching fellow, 1974–77; Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA, assistant professor, 1977–83, associate professor, 1983–89, professor of English, 1989–94; Elizabethtown College, Elizabethtown, PA, visiting assistant professor, 1994–97, associate professor, 1997–2001, R.W. Schlosser associate professor, 2001–03, R.W. Schlosser Professor of English, 2003–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Chancellor's Fellow, University of California, Los Angeles, 1973–74; Teacher of the Year, Westmont College, 1980, 1990; book of the year, Mythopoeic Society, 1993, for Planets in Peril; outstanding book rating, American Library Association, 1993, for Planets in Peril.
What You Know Might Not Be So, Baker Books (Boston, MA), 1987.
Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C.S. Lewis's Ransom Trilogy, University of Massachusetts Press (Amherst, MA), 1992.
The Most Reluctant Convert: C.S. Lewis's Journey to Faith, InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 2002.
Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis, InterVarsity Press (Downers Grove, IL), 2005.
Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles, Jossey-Bass (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
A South Divided: Portraits of Dissent in the Confederacy, Rutgers University Press (Piscataway, NJ), 2006.
Contributor to books, including Flight of Fantasy: C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy and the Twenty First Century, edited by Dwight Longnecker; contributor of stories to periodicals, including Southwest Lutheran Quarterly and Eternity; contributor of articles and essays to periodicals, including Early American Literature, Radix, Canadian C.S. Lewis Journal, Harrisburg Patriot-News, Lancaster Intelligencer, and the Mifflinburg County Register; contributor of book reviews to periodicals, including Christianity and Literature, Books and Culture, Anglo-American Review, and Christianity Today.
SIDELIGHTS: English professor David C. Downing has written several studies of author and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis. His first book to focus on this subject, Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C.S. Lewis's Ransom Trilogy, is a comprehensive look at the trilogy, with the author drawing on Lewis's other writings, including his nonfiction works. The author also discusses how Lewis's conversion to Christianity influenced the trilogy and the plot devices he used to reveal his strong Christian philosophy. In addition, Downing discusses Lewis's friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. "Unlike many other critics …, Downing does not seem interested in refuting or criticizing Lewis's theology," wrote Martha A. Bartter in Utopian Studies. "Instead, he is much more interested in showing where and how Lewis formed his ideas, where else he has illustrated or discussed them in nonfiction form, and how well or how clearly they occur in his fiction." Bartter went on to write that "by the time he's finished, Downing has clearly, sympathetically and objectively handled most of Lewis's major preoccupations."
In The Most Reluctant Convert: C.S. Lewis's Journey to Faith, Downing is primarily concerned with Lewis's interior life from when he first rejected his Christian upbringing to when he returned to his faith. The author details Lewis's boyhood, including his mother's death, difficult relationship with his father, and his time in boarding school where he first took on an atheistic viewpoint. As he follows Lewis into World War I, Downing recounts how Lewis's experience led him to once again seek spiritual answers to life. He then continues to investigate Lewis's slow return to Christianity as he turned away from his alliance with idealism and pantheism. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that "the narrative's firm foundation in Lewis's thoughts makes it a plausible and joyful creative journey." Ray Olson, writing in Booklist, felt that the author "creates an intellectual biography that seizes and sustains interest as though it were a spellbinding suspense thriller."
Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis explores Lewis's attitudes about mysticism, while Downing examines Lewis's most popular books in Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. The "Narnia Chronicles" are a series of seven children's books that contain a strong Christian allegorical content. Appropriately, Downing is concerned with the books' spiritual and moral allegories and explores them once again by examining Lewis's life and thoughts. Writing in the Christian Century, Gilbert Meilaender commented that the author "uses this narrative thread to good advantage." In Library Journal Ron Ratliff observed that Downing's "immense knowledge of the many nuances of the series and his ability to bring so many perspectives together are the book's key strengths."
Downing once told CA: "My writing comes out of my college teaching. My books on Bible misinterpretations, on a mnemonic approach to spelling, and on C.S. Lewis's Ransom trilogy all come out of classroom experiences in which I felt the need to create my own text. Even my forthcoming novel, Cross Purposes, is set on a college campus and deals with issues many students and faculty have wrestled with."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 1, 2002, Ray Olson, review of The Most Reluctant Convert: C.S. Lewis's Journey to Faith, p. 1070.
Christian Century, November 29, 2005, Gilbert Meilaender, review of Into the Wardrobe: C.S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles, p. 35.
Library Journal, April 15, 2002, Augustine J. Curley, review of The Most Reluctant Convert, p. 92; May 1, 2005, Graham Christian, review of Into the Region of Awe: Mysticism in C.S. Lewis, p. 90; November 15, 2005, Ron Ratliff, review of Into the Wardrobe, p. 70.
Publishers Weekly, April 1, 2002, review of The Most Reluctant Convert, p. 78.
Utopian Studies, spring, 1998, Martha A. Bartter, review of Planets in Peril: A Critical Study of C.S. Lewis's Ransom Trilogy, p. 276.
Elizabethtown College Web site, http://users.etown.edu/ (March 23, 2006), faculty profile of the author.
Never Enough Tea: Reflections on All Things C.S. Lewis, http://afcmin.org/merelewis/ (February 1, 2006), Roger Overton, review of Into the Wardrobe.