'Divine carelessness' : the fairytale levity of George MacDonald
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Though known for his fantastical writings George MacDonald is often considered to be a typical Victorian teacher of religious and moral seriousness. Approaches to MacDonald’s works normally seek to find his ‘message’ by expositing the moral, social, pedagogical, psychological or theological ‘content’ of his work. This study recasts MacDonald in the light of his shorter fairytales for the ‘childlike’ and argues that these seemingly small and insignificant works are a golden key to his artistic enterprise. This is not because of any particular ‘message’ that they carry but because of their peculiarly light mode of generating meaning and the relation of this lightness to theology. Whilst it is frequently disparaged, levity actually has strong parallels with the theological atmosphere of Christianity. Light modalities such as folly, ecstasy, play, vanity, carnival and Sabbath demonstrate that the Christian faith has greater affinities with lightness and whimsicality than its solemn defenders sometimes admit. MacDonald’s fairytales draw upon this surprising harmony between levity and faith to create environments in which readers can playfully reflect upon the nature of ultimate reality and begin to find their own place within that reality. By helping to remove the mask of ‘seriousness’ presented by things in the everyday world, fairytales engender a kind of ‘divine carelessness’ and help people to let go of the weighty cares and fears that keep them tightly bound to worldly things.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic copy restricted until 10th November 2016
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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