Monstrous losses and broken fairy tales : fantasy, loss and trauma in young adult literature

Dabrowski, Stephanie Elizabeth (2016-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis explores the portrayal of loss and mourning in young adult fiction by analysing three contemporary examples, namely David Almond’s Skellig, Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls and Alexia Casale’s The Bone Dragon. In each of these novels the process of an adolescent protagonist coming to terms with a major loss or change, in itself a form of loss, is expressed and facilitated through the inclusion of a fantasy being that acts as a companion or guide within an otherwise realistic setting. While the fantasy elements draw from conventions in children’s fiction and forms such as the fairy tale, the complexity of their function in these novels, in which they give access to interiority by prompting the exploration of internal issues or as externalised manifestations of internal states, is also consistent with conventions of narrating trauma which, according to psychoanalysis, seeks expression but cannot be confronted directly. The thesis thus traces the way in which fantasy features in these young adult fictions, looking at the shift away from fantasy being uncritically accepted as it is in children’s fiction, a mode that is more consistent with magical realism, to the more ambiguous presence of fantasy in these young adult novels where fantasy can be read as an expression of psychological subjectivity and is more consistent with the fantastic. This allows for the exploration of difficult subject matter in a way that still resonates with children’s fiction, expressing the process of transition into adolescence. Theory on adolescent development, loss, mourning and trauma is thus brought together with theory on fantasy and fairy tales in order to critically analyse the way these novels deliberately draw on children’s fiction but move beyond it in terms of both the themes that are explored and the sophisticated use of fantasy to portray the internal confrontation with change and loss.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis stel ondersoek in oor die uitbeelding van verlies en rou in jeugliteratuur deur middel van die analise van drie kontemporêre voorbeelde, naamlik David Almond se Skellig, Patrick Ness se A Monster Calls en Alexia Casale se The Bone Dragon. In elk van hierdie romans word ‘n adolessente protagonis se persoonlike ontdekkingsreis van aansienlike verlies of lewensverandering (op sigself ‘n vorm van verlies) deur die insluiting van ‘n fantasie-wese wat optree as metgesel of gids binne ‘n andersins realistiese omgewing uitgedruk of gefasiliteer. Terwyl die fantasie elemente in hierdie werke wel inspirasie trek uit beginsels wat meer gereeld in kinder-fiksie en sprokies verhale te vinde is, gee die kompleksiteit van hul funksie in hierdie romans toegang tot ‘n innerlikheid deur die aanhitsing van ‘n verkenning van interne kwessies en geëksternaliseerde manifestasies van interne toestande. Hierdie benadering is ook steekhoudend met die konvensies van trauma-vertellings wat, volgens psigoanalise, self uitdrukking soek sonder direkte konfrontasie. Hierdie tesis ligspoor dus die wyse waarop fantasie betoon word in jeugliteratuur, deur na sy uiteenloping met fantasie in die onkrities aanvaarbare vorm van kinderliteratuur te kyk. Laasgenoemde, ‘n medium wat heelwat meer bestendig is met magiese realisme, tot die meer dubbelsinnige teenwoordigheid van fantasie in jeugliteratuur, waar fantasie ook gelees kan word as ‘n uitdrukking van sielkundige subjektiwiteit en dikwels verenigbaar met die denkbeeldige is. Dit maak moontlik die ondersoek van gewigtige onderwerpe op n manier wat gehorig bly aan kinderliteratuur en sy uitbeelding van die oorgangsstadium na adolessensie. Teorie oor adolessente ontwikkeling, verlies, rou en trauma word dus verenig met teorie oor fantasie en sprokiesverhale om sodoende ‘n kritiese ondersoek in te stel oor die onderwerp van hoe hierdie werke, met voorbedagtheid, elemente van kinderfiksie benut, maar verder gaan in terme van beide die temas wat aangeraak word sowel as die gesofistikeerde gebruik van fantasie om hierdie interne konfrontasies van verandering en verlies te skilder.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98684
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