Sources, symbols, identities, and metamorphoses in Carroll’s ‘Nonsense’ and Macdonald’s Fantasy

Soto, Fernando Jorge (2010) Sources, symbols, identities, and metamorphoses in Carroll’s ‘Nonsense’ and Macdonald’s Fantasy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Lewis Carroll, and George MacDonald are responsible for some of the most popular yet obscure texts in the English Canon. Because Carroll and MacDonald are often credited with pioneering much of their genres — Nonsense Literature and Fantasy Literature — it seems that often they are labeled as originators, and not as active contributing members of a much larger literary tradition. Carroll and MacDonald were close friends and literary confidants, using each other’s works, as well as employing that of other writers.

This is a study of the sources Carroll and MacDonald used in an attempt to better understand the underlying meanings and symbols in some of their works. For example, I study the analogous symbols they utilized, along with the words used to express them, to convey their ideas about identity and metamorphosis. I show that they rely on ancient, complex symbols, and the traditional language and meanings associated with them, to communicate deeply embedded messages to their readers. They employ the symbols of the worm, the chrysalis, and the butterfly, in several different guises, in their complex works. It is these symbols that allowed them to elucidate the concepts of the individual’s initial materialist state, followed by the midway period of dreaming/reflecting, and the subsequent spiritual awakening.

The analysis of the literary sources they used helps to uncover symbols and themes of interest for Carroll and MacDonald, which in turn help to expose other of their sources, such as the Bestiaries, biblical stories, and the works of Isaac Watts, and William Blake. I attempt to explain how some of these symbols and themes function in the portrayal of coherent, yet creative, meanings in Carroll’s ‘Nonsense’ and MacDonald’s Fantasy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Chapter Four 'INDENTITIES, SOURCES, AND MACDONALD’S REFASHIONING OF CLASSICAL MYTH' was published in slightly altered form as two papers: : ‘Kore Motifs in the Princess Books: Mythic Threads Between Irenes and Eirinys.’ 'George MacDonald: Literary Heritage and Heirs' (Wayne: Zossima Press. 2008), and ‘Unearthing Ancient Sources in MacDonald’s The Golden Key.’ North Wind: A Journal of George MacDonald Studies (2007). A short section of Chapter Five was published as ‘The Phantastic Spark that Binds All Life: George MacDonald and Victorian Bio-electrical/Bio-chemical Theories.’ 'Inklings – Jarbuch f ü r Literatur und Ästhetik' (2002).
Keywords: Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald, William Blake, "nonsense", Fantasy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: MacKenzie, Dr. Donald
Date of Award: 2010
Depositing User: Dr. Fernando J. Soto
Unique ID: glathesis:2010-2295
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2011
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:53

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