Leading through Reading in Contemporary Young Adult Fantasy by Philip Pullman and Terry Pratchett

  • Elisabeth Rose Gruner
Part of the Jepson Studies in Leadership book series (JSL)


There’s a popular bumper sticker in some areas that reads: “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” It is sometimes paired with another one: “Bibles that are falling apart usually belong to people that aren’t.” The two combine to suggest an approach to reading and religion that are at the core of my argument in this chapter: they suggest that religious reading is fundamentally anti-interpretive; that reading the Bible or other religious texts provides direct access to truth. In the young adult texts I discuss in this essay, however, the opposite is the case: while texts (of many sorts) may provide access to truth, even spiritual and religious truth, such access requires interpretation just as much as, if not more than, any other kind of reading. The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman and the Discworld novels featuring Tiffany Aching by Terry Pratchett, which otherwise may seem to have little in common, feature young, attentive, skeptical, truth-seeking readers. These novels, while hardly didactic, suggest through their emphasis on critical reading and thinking that no area of development is out of bounds for the reader; that reading, indeed, enables rather than forestalls moral and spiritual development—a development that emphasizes storytelling and caregiving. Storytelling and caregiving in fact turn out to be related gifts, elements of a kind of feminist leadership that has its roots in critical reading.


Fairy Tale Dark Material Paradise Lost Implied Reader Feminist Theology 
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© Elisabeth Rose Gruner 2016

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  • Elisabeth Rose Gruner

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