His Dark Materials Illuminated: Critical Essays on Philip Pullman's Trilogy

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Millicent Lenz, Carole Scott
Wayne State University Press, 2005 - Literary Criticism - 242 pages

British author Philip Pullman’s celebrated trilogy for young readers, His Dark Materials [Northern Lights/Golden Compass (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), The Amber Spyglass (2000)], has reached a broad spectrum of readers, from those appreciating his metaphysical imagination and literary depth to those charmed by his suspenseful and emotional storytelling. Demonstrating its wide appeal in 2001, The Amber Spyglass became the first book to be awarded the Whitbread Book Award in both the adult and children’s categories. Pullman’s trilogy is distinguished not only for its narrative and poetic power but also for its awareness of literary tradition. His Dark Materials confronts some of the most urgent dilemmas of our time without suggesting answers but rather a way of meeting them with courage and surviving them with grace.

Edited by Millicent Lenz—renowned for her study of Pullman’s work—this is the first book to place His Dark Materials in critical perspective. The fourteen diverse essays within offer literary and historical analysis as well as approaches from such disciplines as theology, storytelling, and linguistics. The first part, Reading Fantasy, Figuring Human Nature, looks at Pullman’s art of making stories and creating fantasy worlds and at readers’ responses to his creations. Part 2, Intertextuality and Revamping Traditions, examines the rich intertextuality of Pullman’s narratives and his use and revamping of literary traditions, including fantasy. Part 3, Pullman and Theology, Pullman and Science Fiction, centers on the complexities of the author’s stance toward religion, his treatment of "Eve," and his affirmation of the Republic of Heaven.

With the staging of His Dark Materials by the National Theatre in England and a film adaptation of the trilogy soon to become a reality, Pullman’s popularity and reputation across age groups is ever-growing—making this book a vital resource to scholars and informed readers of his work.

 

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Contents

Awakening to the Twentyfirst Century The Evolution of Human Consciousness in Pullmans His Dark Materials
1
Reading Dark Materials
22
Second Nature Daemons and Ideology in The Golden Compass
37
Dyads or Triads? His Dark Materials and the Structure of the Human
48
Northern Lights and Northern Readers Background Knowledge Affect Linking and Literary Understanding
57
Pullmans His Dark Materials a Challenge to the Fantasies of J R R Tolkien and C S Lewis with an Epilogue on Pullmans NeoRomantic Reading of Par...
75
Pullmans Enigmatic Ontology Revamping Old Traditions in His Dark Materials
95
Without Lyra we would understand neither the New nor the Old Testament Exegesis Allegory and Reading The Golden Compass
106
Rediscovering Faith through Science Fiction Pullmans His Dark Materials
174
Circumventing the Grand Narrative Dust as an Alternative Theological Vision in Pullmans His Dark Materials
188
Unexpected Allies? Pullman and the Feminist Theologians
199
Eve Again Mother Eve Pullmans Eve Variations
212
A Biographical Note
223
Works by Philip Pullman
225
Further Readings
227
Contributors
229

Rouzing the Faculties to Act Pullmans Blake for Children
125
Tradition Transformation and the Bold Emergence Fantastic Legacy and Pullmans His Dark Materials
135
And Hes AGoing to Destroy Him Religious Subversion in Pullmans His Dark Materials
160

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About the author (2005)

Millicent Lenz was professor at the School of Information Science and Policy at the University at Albany, State University of New York. She was author of many works, including Alternative Worlds of Fantasy Fiction: Ursula K. LeGuin, Terry Pratchett, and Philip Pullman (Continuum, 2001) and Nuclear Age Literature for Youth: The Quest for a Life-Affirming Ethic (American Library Association, 1990), which was awarded the Prize for Best Book of Criticism of Children's Literature by the Children's Literature Association.

Carole Scott is professor of English in the Children's Literature Program at San Diego State University and former undergraduate dean. She is co-author of How Picturebooks Work (Garland, 2001).

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