Doctoral Thesis

Telling Tales: Remaking myth in Gregory Maguire’s adult fiction

Religious Studies, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen

Supervised by Professor Robert A Segal and Dr Leigh Clayton

Examined by Dr Dimitra Fimi and Dr Sam Newington

This thesis argues that the contemporary fantasy fiction of Gregory Maguire is indicative of a particular form of myth making that occurs in narrative form in contemporary culture. In choosing to re-imagine existing narratives that already have recognisable cultural significance, Maguire’s particular engagement with this process illuminates the power of narrative to affect individuals on an emotional level as well as the values of society. In examining the interactions between theories of myth, intertextuality, and fantasy this thesis proposes to interrogate both the status of these narratives as cultural myths, and the phenomena of re-making myth in contemporary fiction. The aim is to examine this pattern of perpetuation and transformation of myth, specifically in the area of contemporary fantasy literature. The particular changes that Maguire makes in the transformation of the myths in question are indicative of broader cultural and social trends and, in some cases, go beyond merely documenting these shifts in the values of society to actually playing a part in enforcing these changes. That this pattern has found its continuation in modern fantasy literature is shown through the analysis and through comparisons between Maguire’s myth-making that of other contemporary fantasy writers. This addresses questions of the importance of fantasy literature in the perpetuation of myth in modernity, something that some areas of myth criticism have struggled to account for and occasionally to recognise. It does so by close examination of the parent myths that Maguire chooses to re-imagine, and the ways in which his approach to intertextuality offers those particular mythic narratives new life in contemporary culture.

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