Mitchell's mandalas : mapping David Mitchell's textual universe
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This study uses the Tibetan mandala, a Buddhist meditation aid and sacred artform, as a secular critical model by which to analyse the complete fictions of author David Mitchell. Discussing his novels, short stories and libretti, this study maps the author’s fictions as an interconnected world-system whose re-evaluation of secular belief in galvanising compassionate ethical action is revealed by a critical comparison with the mandala’s methods of world-building. Using the mandala as an interpretive tool to critique the author’s Buddhist influences, this thesis reads the mandala as a metaphysical map, a fitting medium for mapping the author’s ethical worldview. The introduction evaluates critical structures already suggested to describe the author’s worlds, and introduces the mandala as an alternative which more fully addresses Mitchell’s fictional terrain. Chapter I investigates the mandala’s cartographic properties, mapping Mitchell’s short stories as integral islandic narratives within his fictional world which, combined, re-evaluate the role of secular belief in galvanising positive ethical action. Chapter II discusses the Tibetan sand mandala in diaspora as a form of performance when created for unfamiliar audiences, reading its cross-cultural deployment in parallel with the regenerative approaches to tragedy in the author’s libretti Wake and Sunken Garden. Chapter III identifies Mitchell’s use of reincarnation as a form of non-linear temporality that advocates future-facing ethical action in the face of humanitarian crises, reading the reincarnated Marinus as a form of secular bodhisattva. Chapter IV deconstructs the mandala to address its theoretical limitations, identifying the panopticon as its sinister counterpart, and analysing its effects in number9dream. Chapter V shifts this study’s use of the mandala from interpretive tool to emerging category, identifying the transferrable traits that form the emerging category of mandalic literature within other post-secular contemporary fictions, discussing works by Michael Ondaatje, Ali Smith, Yann Martel, Will Self, and Margaret Atwood.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2022-05-18
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 18th May 2022
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