I’ve been rereading C. S. Lewis’ An Experiment in Criticism for the first time in at least ten years, and I have been struck (as I often am when reading Lewis) how insightful and how dim he can be. He’s always dividing the world up into Us and Them, and about Them (the people with whom he has no sympathy) he can be quite thickheaded. My favorite instance is when he contrasts readers of H. Rider Haggard with readers of John Buchan, the latter being obviously inferior for some reason.
But when he’s not UsAgainstThemming he can say things that are remarkably shrewd. In particular I was thinking of his chapter “On the Meaning of Fantasies,” which is mostly about daydreaming and its relationship to writing and reading. From this, and from something in Surprised by Joy, I gather that he was a little scared by his propensity to daydream, perhaps not realizing how universal it is. But he doesn’t let this prevent him from tracing fantasies in the psychological sense to fantasy in the literary sense and why it appeals to some and not others. (Those dread Others who bedevil his nonfiction. Still, he may have a point here.)
As Tychê would have it, yesterday I saw this story about daydreaming at Scientific American’s website. Researchers have found that “a default network of regions in the brain’s cortex–a grouping known to be active when the mind is completely unoccupied–is firing away as a person is engaged in routine activities,” suggesting that this “default network” is the daydreaming mind, which becomes less active as a person’s activities become less routine.
I wondered (and still wonder) if the daydreaming mind can remain active while the more alert on-task mind is operating. It seems to me that sometimes when I’m telling a story (out loud in a lecture or while pounding out a piece of fiction) my thinking changes and becomes a trancelike state where I can both dream and act.
On the other hand, that may just be caffeine intoxication.