Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 255–270 | Cite as

Abject Magic: Reasoning Madness in Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness Trilogy

Original Paper


This paper explores the representation of magic and madness in Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness trilogy (2005–2007). Throughout the series, magic is constructed as an abject and disabling force that threatens to disable magic-wielders, either through madness or death. Despite being represented as a ubiquitous force, the consequences of magic are gendered, and the female protagonist of the trilogy, Reason, sets out to remove the threat of magic. The intersections between ableist, magical and feminine discourses are explored via a feminist disability politics and Kristeva’s concept of abjection. While, at times, the trilogy challenges the ability/disability binary schism, the narrative closure reaffirms dualistic constructions of reason/madness, ability/disability, reality/fantasy and masculine/feminine. Thus, rather than redressing social attitudes towards mental illness and critiquing normative constructions of disability and the other, Larbalestier’s trilogy reaffirms dualistic and normative constructions of mental illness.


Abject Disability Magic Mental illness Young adult literature 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Monash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  2. 2.ElsternwickAustralia

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