Letting the winter in: myth revision and the winter solstice in fantasy fiction
AbstractThis is a Creative Writing thesis, which incorporates both critical writing and my own novel, Cold City. The thesis explores ‘myth-revision’ in selected works of Fantasy fiction. Myth-revision is defined as the retelling of traditional legends, folk-tales and other familiar stories in such as way as to change the story’s implied ideology. (For example, Angela Carter’s ‘The Company of Wolves’ revises ‘Red Riding Hood’ into a feminist tale of female sexuality and empowerment.) Myth-revision, the thesis argues, has become a significant trend in Fantasy fiction in the last three decades, and is notable in the works of Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman. Despite its incorporation of supernatural elements, myth-revision is an agnostic or even atheistic phenomenon, which takes power from deities and gives it to moral humans instead. As such it represents a rebellion against the ‘Founding Fathers’ of Fantasy, writers such as Tolkien or CS Lewis, whose works stress the rightful superiority of divine figures. The thesis pays particular attention to how the myths surrounding the Winter Solstice are revised in this kind of fiction. Part One consists of my novel Cold City, with appropriate annotations. In Part Two, Chapter One compares and contrasts Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials with CS Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. It argues that Pullman’s sequence of children’s novels is an anti-Narnia, which revises CS Lewis’s conservative Christian allegory into one supporting Pullman’s secular humanist viewpoint. Chapter Two explores myth-revision in Elizabeth Hand’s novel of adult Fantasy Winterlong. It examines how Hand ‘revises’ the Hellenic myth of the god Dionysos, especially as it is related to Euripides’ tragedy The Bacchae. Chapter Three examines the use of ‘Ragnarok’ – the ancient Norse myth of the end of the world – in Cold City.
McSporran, Cathy (2007) Letting the winter in: myth revision and the winter solstice in fantasy fiction. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.