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Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 43, Issue 4, pp 293–302 | Cite as

Mocking God and Celebrating Satan: Parodies and Profanities in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

  • Chantal Oliver
Original Paper

Abstract

Given its stance against organised religion, it is perhaps not surprising that Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy His Dark Materials has, alongside the plaudits and praise, invited controversy and debate. Jacobs (The Weekly Standard, 2000), for instance, views the “anti-Christian” theme in Pullman’s work as both misleading and dishonest, whilst Hitchens (The Mail on Sunday, 2002) denounces it as atheistic “propaganda.” Of central concern to these critics, and others, is the impact of Pullman’s heretical understandings on impressionable young readers. I would suggest that such concern implies a somewhat questionable homogenisation of young readers, and fails to recognise the empowering potential residing in Pullman’s text. Indeed, by drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of “carnival,” a literary mode which subverts official culture through laughter and role reversals, it can be argued that far from indoctrinating the reader or promoting uncontested atheistic understandings, the heretical disruptions and inversions in Pullman’s religious theme encourage an altogether more positive and plural response.

Keywords

Philip Pullman Anti-Christian message Bakhtin’s Carnival 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thank you to Dr Clare Walsh for all her support and guidance and to Dr Elaine Lomax for her comments on an early draft of this article.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Institute for Media, Art and DesignUniversity of BedfordshireLutonUK

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