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In between Materiality and Meaning: World, Dust and Daemon in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy

Hsu, Hsiao-Hsien (2017) In between Materiality and Meaning: World, Dust and Daemon in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates materiality, meanings and the use of three crucial elements, World, Dust, and Daemon in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy. Together, the three novels Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000) juxtapose and represent not only Philip Pullman’s counter-interpretation of Biblical representation, Genesis in particular, but also his worries about religious absolutism and story-telling based in Christian belief. As a New Atheist fantasy fiction written to young adult and adult readers, Pullman’s enthusiasm for playing with and materializing obscure religious concepts and relating them to our real life through story-telling is remarkable. This research is aimed to analyse the methodologies and further to understand how Pullman can fulfill his unique cosmology, as well as the problems and paradoxes these elements could have brought together with. The first chapter, World, composes etymological, philosophical and constitutive studies of Pullman’s World system in His Dark Materials. That system takes an organic tuber-like form in its arrangement of worlds in time and space. The thesis attempts to suggest that Pullman’s atheistic cosmology is, paradoxically, constructed in terms of a heavily theological materiality. The research in the second chapter, Dust, focuses on the transformation of Dust. It attempts to argue that Pullmanic Dust is a process of becoming rather than a status of being. The whole process is divided into three stages, and my critique observes how Dust is materially changed in meaning in each stage. The research also provides detailed studies of how Dust can be metaphorically related to the doctrine of original sin and, in consequence, the work’s close relation to the very Christianity that it seeks to eschew. Daemon, as the most materialized entity made of Dust, is at the crux of Pullman’s understanding of the human soul. It is also a starting point for high fantasy in His Dark Materials. By studying the materiality and meaning of Daemon, my research into what is termed the laws of “settlement” finds that they violate the ontological foundation of Pullman’s realism and of his psychological (and philosophical) understanding of the soul. This chapter suggests that Pullman’s animalization of the human soul and, conversely, his anthropomorphism of daemons together make for a significant contradiction in his cosmology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Hsiao-Hsien Hsu
Date Deposited: 18 May 2017 14:04
Last Modified: 18 May 2017 14:04
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/19669

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