I want to examine the role of ideas of family and the familiar in structuring the ideology, or ideologies, of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. First, however, a brief survey of recent criticism of ideology, and the problems it encounters, will be helpful in framing my own enquiry. Over the past decade, children’s literature criticism has started to respond to areas of literary theory that inquire into the ideologies of texts. Indeed, of all the ‘theories’ criticism has touched upon, it could be argued that this is one of the most fundamentally pertinent to the field of writing for children. In teaching children to read stories, according to one commonly-held view, it is of the highest importance to be ideologically aware, and to pass that ideological awareness on to the children. Broadly speaking, this is a position that has been taken by, among others, John Stephens, Peter Hollindale, and Roderick McGillis. Stephens, who offers the most thorough account of ideology within children’s literature criticism, advocates inculcating ‘reading strategies’ that will help child readers to avoid being trapped into a single subject position. All narratives have ideology, so any text will require an awareness of it on the part of the reader.1 Furthermore, Stephens agrees with Hollindale that children’s literature criticism has conceived of ideology too much in terms of more or less conscious agendas, and that this limits its purchase on unexamined assumptions.2 Aidan Chambers’s notion of texts leading children to question ideas in the guise of a friendly teacher is, says Stephens, as likely to lead to subjection as to liberation.3 Thus far, Stephens offers a thorough critique of ways in which ideology has generally been conceived in children’s literature criticism.
- Dark Material
- Critical Text
- Female Scholar
- Indirect Discourse
- Familiar Story
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Suggested further reading
Carsten, Janet (ed.) Cultures of Relatedness: New Approaches to the Study of Kinship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
Eagleton, Terry, Ideology: An Introduction (London: Verso, 1991).
Geertz, Clifford, The Interpretation of Cultures (London: Fontana, 1993).
Hunt, Peter and Millicent Lenz, Alternative Worlds in Fantasy Fiction (London: Continuum, 2001).
Lévi-Strauss, Claude, Structural Anthropology, trans. by Claire Jordan and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972).
Zornado, Joseph L., Inventing the Child: Culture, Ideology, and the Story of Childhood (New York: Garland, 2001).
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© 2004 Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited
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Thomson, S. (2004). The Child, The Family, The Relationship. Familiar Stories: Family, Storytelling, and Ideology in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. In: Lesnik-Oberstein, K. (eds) Children’s Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230523777_7
Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London
Print ISBN: 978-1-4039-1738-6
Online ISBN: 978-0-230-52377-7