The secular angel in contemporary children’s literature: David Almond, Philip Pullman, and Cliff McNish

Chelioti, Eleni (2013). The secular angel in contemporary children’s literature: David Almond, Philip Pullman, and Cliff McNish. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis explores the representation of the contemporary secular angel in children’s literature, focusing on the works of three authors: David Almond, Philip Pullman, and Cliff McNish. In the works in question, the secular angel has been removed from all religious frameworks, including its traditional allegiance and obedience to a God or Devil figure. This absence, however, does not negate the existence of a moral compass, nor the importance of free will, which is bestowed upon and used by angelic and human characters alike. Transformation, one of the thesis’s key themes, becomes significant as I argue that the angelic figures bring about a transformation in the novels’ protagonists. Intertextuality forms an integral part of the analysis as the works of John Milton and William Blake are key reference points. The Introduction traces the angel’s trajectory from its scriptural tradition in the Middle Ages, to its progressive secularisation in the 20th century, and a chapter on each author follows. The thesis concludes by arguing that these angels’ role in children’s literature is to challenge and complicate notions of religion, innocence and experience, and science vs. faith, as they become representatives of a contemporary, secular philosophy, while retaining and embracing the spiritual.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature


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