George MacDonald's Christian fiction: parables, imagination and dreams
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The relationship between the Bible and literature is long-standing and has received increasing attention in recent years. This project investigates the interface between the Bible and literature by focusing on the genre of “parable”. The influence of the Bible on Western literature is considerable, and yet in the case of George MacDonald’s writing it is often overlooked. The “parabolic” is a helpful way to focus our discussion as it is an important genre both in Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God and more subtly in MacDonald’s fantasy and fairytale writing. It is remarkable that approximately a third of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God comes in the form of parabolic speech. Rather than serving as a nice illustrative story to a theological point made elsewhere, the actual form of parabolic speech is crucial for the message it seeks to convey. Form and content work together in Jesus’ parables in a unique way to break open the reality depicted in parable. This thesis attempts to investigate a specifically biblical view of “parable” for understanding certain aspects of MacDonald’s fantasy literature. MacDonald developed a decidedly theological understanding of story as having the capacity to refresh the revelatory nature of Scripture. It is by the imagination that a poet is able to find new forms to recast and recover old and forgotten truths. By designating the poet as a finder rather than a maker, MacDonald resists Coleridge’s idealist inclinations to elevate the poet to a creator. His employment of story and more particularly the “parabolic” is then not only an aesthetic but also a theological choice. MacDonald’s last fantasy romance, Lilith, will serve as our test case to demonstrate this. Considering the “parabolic” in Lilith sheds significant light on the meaning of Lilith and offers up a decisive answer to the important question of whether MacDonald moves in his fantasy and fairytales from a decidedly Christian perspective to a more polyvalent view of reality. This argument shall be further substantiated by bringing to the light the important influence of Novalis on Lilith.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-05-09
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Electronic copy restricted until 9th May 2023, during which time access is available with the consent of the Head of School