Fighting Tyranny in Fantastic Literature for Children and Young Adults

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Title: Fighting Tyranny in Fantastic Literature for Children and Young Adults
Authors: Kokorski, Karin
Thesis advisor: Prof. Dr. Thomas Kullmann
Thesis referee: Prof. Dr. Peter Schneck
Abstract: The focus of fighting tyranny and the justifications of the consecutive wars in fantasy literature for children and young adults play a noteworthy role in the intertwinement of literature and its educational potential. This genre is filled with numerous images of violence, in particular different scenarios of war and its justifications. In the books war constitutes the final battle between good and evil, and thus manifests the protagonists’ ultimate moral decisions between these two forces. The following books constitute the corpus: C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-56), Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence (1965-77), Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (1995-2000), J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (1997-2007), Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle (2002-11), Amanda Hemingway’s Sangreal Trilogy (2005-07), and P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast’s House of Night novels (2007-2014). Although not all the books feature wars, all display justifications for war and the imperative to fight tyranny. Located within an intersection of diverse critical theories, my thesis engages literary texts in order to reflect on their capacity to negotiate, challenge, subvert, and perpetuate values and power structures. Motif analysis forms the centre of this analysis. I deploy a varied approach to literary analysis, relying upon literary and cultural theories (especially theories of ideology) to understand the realizations of the different motifs. Through issues of character construction, (political) authority, religion, and the construction of difference, the reader learns much about the culture and values of the respective world. Furthermore, this analysis invites the reader to find parallels between the fabricated world and the real world, and thus transfer what s/he has learned from the texts his/her own world. Engaging in such a reading ensures the drawing of direct connections between the reality constructed in the books on the one hand, and politics, the construction of difference, religion, and just war theory in the reader’s world on the other. The content analysis leads to broader cultural messages, which comprise assumptions about gender, power, ethnicity, religion, and morality. This methodology emphasizes the relevance as well as the complexity of the books and their educative potential, and facilitates the analysis of the books as tools for the defence and perpetuation of Western values and culture.
Subject Keywords: Children's Literature; Young Adult; Fantasy; Fighting; Tyranny; Justifications; War; Harry Potter; His Dark Materials; The Chronicles of Narnia; The Dark Is Rising; Inheritance Cycle; The House of Night; Sangreal Trilogy; Villains; Ideology; Race and Racism; Authority; Religion; Just War Theory; Gender; Power Structures; Morality
Issue Date: 10-Jun-2020
Type of publication: Dissertation oder Habilitation [doctoralThesis]
Appears in Collections:FB07 - E-Dissertationen

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