Identity and the children's literature of George MacDonald

George, Carla Elizabeth (2015-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2015.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACTThe Victorian period, often heralded as the golden age of children‘s literature, saw both a break and a continuation with the traditions of the fairy tale genre, with many authors choosing this platform to question and subvert social and literary expectations (Honic, Breaking the Angelic Image 1; Zipes, Art of Subversion 97). George MacDonald (1824-1905), a prolific Scottish theologian, whose unspoken sermons, essays, novels, fantasies and children‘s fairy tales deliberately engage with such issues as gender, mortality, class, poverty and morality, was one such author (Ellison 92). This thesis critically examines how the Victorian writer George MacDonald portrays the notion of a ‗self‘ in terms of fixed ‗character‘ and mutable physical appearance in his fairy tales for children. Chapter One provides a foundation for this study by studying MacDonald‘s literary and religious context, particularly important for this former preacher banned from his pulpit (Reis, 24). Chapter Two explores a series of examples of the interaction between characters and their physical bodies. This begins with examining portrayals of characters synonymous with their bodies, before contrasting this with characters whose bodies appear differently than their inner selves. Chapter Two finishes by observing those characters whose physical forms alter throughout the course of the tale. As these different character-body interactions are observed, a marked separation between character and body emerges. In Chapter Three, the implications of this separation between character and body are explored. By writing such separations between the character and their body, MacDonald creates a space where further questions can be asked about our understanding of issues such as identity and mortality. Chapter Three begins with an analysis of the observations made in the first chapter, posing that MacDonald crafted characters consisting of an inner self and a physical body. This was then further explored through images of recognition in the tales, finding that characters are expected to recognize one another despite complete physical alterations; the inner self is able to know and be known. Chapter Three concludes by studying mortality in the tales, particularly MacDonald‘s portrayals of the possibility of life after death.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die Viktoriaanseperiode, wat gereeld voorgehou word as die goue era vir kinderliteratuur, het beide breuke en kontinuïteit gehad met die tradisies van die genre van sprokiesverhale. Menigte skrywers het sprokiesverhale gekies as ‘n middel waardeur hulle sosiale en literêre verwagtinge kon bevraagteken en omseil (Honic, Breaking the Angelic Image 1; Zipes, Art of Subversion 97). George MacDonald (1824—1905) — 'n prolifieke Skotse teoloog, wie se onuitgesproke preke, opstelle, novelle, fantasieë en kindersprokies doelgerig kwessies soos geslag, moraliteit, klas en armoede getakel het — was een só 'n skrywer (Ellison 92). Hierdie tesis ondersoek krities hoe die Viktoriaanse skrywer George MacDonald die idee van ‗self‘ uitgebeeld het in terme van 'n vaste "karakter" en veranderbare fisiese voorkoms in sy sprokiesverhale vir kinders. Hoofstuk Een verskaf 'n fondasie vir hierdie studie deur MacDonald se literêre- en geloofskonteks te bestudeer. Hierdie is besonders belangrik, omdat hierdie gewese predikant voorheen van die kansel verban was (Reis, 24). Hoofstuk Twee ondersoek 'n reeks voorbeelde van die interaksie tussen karakters en hul fisiese gestaltes. Dit begin met 'n ondersoek van uitbeeldings waarin karakters sinoniem met hul voorkoms is. Daarna word 'n kontras getrek met karakters wie se uiterlike voorkoms verskillend is van wie hulle innerlik is. Hoofstuk Twee sluit af deur merking te maak van karakters wie se fisiese voorkoms verander deur die verloop van die verhaal. Soos hierdie verskillende interaksies tussen karakter en voorkoms ondersoek word, word 'n merkbare verdeling tussen karakter en voorkoms ontbloot. In Hoofstuk Drie word die implikasies van hierdie verdeling tussen karakter en voorkoms ondersoek. Deur so 'n verdeling tussen karakter en voorkoms uit te beeld, skep MacDonald 'n ruimte waarbinne verdere vrae gevra kan word oor hoe ons kwessies soos identiteit en moraliteit verstaan. Hoofstuk Drie begin met 'n analise van die opmerkings wat in die eerste hoofstuk gemaak is, waarin gestel word dat MacDonald sy karakters ontwerp het om te bestaan uit 'n innerlike self en 'n fisiese voorkoms. Hierdie word dan verder ondersoek deur te kyk na voorbeelde van gewaarwording in die verhale, waar daar gevind is dat daar van die karakters verwag word om mekaar te herken ten spyte van gehele fisiese veranderinge; die innerlike self kan ken en geken word. Hoofstuk Drie sluit af deur die moraliteit van die stories te bestudeer, veral MacDonald se uitbeelding van die moontlikheid van lewe na die dood.

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