Is Mary Jane?—Mary Neylan as a Model for Jane Studdock in 'That Hideous Strength'


  • David C. Downing Marion E. Wade Center


Seeking to understand how Lewis acquired the confidence to write in the voice of a young, unbelieving, married woman in That Hideous Strength, David Downing highlights similarities between Jane Studdock and Mary Shelley, a woman whom Lewis tutored at Magdalen and with whom he kept up a correspondence to the end of his life. After tracing many similarities through Lewis’s correspondence and That Hideous Strength, Downing concludes that Jane remains a composite creation, with some characteristics more reminiscent of Lewis than of Mary. However, That Hideous Strength “marks an important artistic departure for Lewis” in that it displays a willingness to anchor a story in the voice of a character who is not an alter ego.

Author Biography

David C. Downing, Marion E. Wade Center

David C. Downing (Ph.D., UCLA) is the Co-Director of the Marion E. Wade Center and co-holder of the Marion E. Wade Chair in Christian Thought at Wheaton College: a position he shares with his wife, Crystal Downing. Before serving at the Wade Center, David served as the R.W. Schlosser Professor of English at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. David has written four scholarly books on C.S. Lewis including the first critical study of the Ransom trilogy, Planets in Peril (2002) and an examination of Lewis’s journey to faith, The Most Reluctant Convert (2005). Downing is a consulting reader on C.S. Lewis for several scholarly journals as well as an editorial consultant for Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Notre Dame University Press, and several other academic publishers. David has published numerous essays and articles, including several articles in VII such as "The Dungeon of his Soul": Lewis's Unfinished "Quest of Bleheris" in Volume 15 (1998) and “C. S. Lewis's Unfinished "Easley Fragment" and His Unfinished Journey” in Volume 28 (2011).