"Within and Without": Exploring the Mind in the Novels of George MacDonald [thesis]

Saskia Voorendt
<p>George MacDonald"s first published novel, Phantastes, is the story of a young man who enters and must negotiate his way through a fantasy landscape. This landscape, it is suggested, is one of the mind, and Anodos" journey through it one of self-exploration and discovery. The sustained metaphor of the mind as a territory to be actively explored through the medium of the physical world, furthermore, is argued to be the basis of several of MacDonald"s novels. While for Anodos the mind is all,
more » ... rming as it does the basis of the entire fantasy world of Fairy Land, in the author"s numerous realist texts the interest emerges in more varied ways, including for example, portrayals of depression, madness, and drug (ab)use. While this significant and unifying feature of MacDonald"s novels has been at times observed by critics with regard to some individual texts, it has not been directly confronted in terms of an inclusive study of his oeuvre. What this thesis demonstrates is firstly the overwhelming significance of the mind as a focal point for MacDonald"s novels, as represented by six central texts: Phantastes, Adela Cathcart, Wilfrid Cumbermede, Malcolm, Donal Grant, and The Flight of the Shadow. It is suggested that such a consistent prioritising of the mind over the physical body lies in the author"s own experience of ongoing physical illness and resulting confrontation with mortality. The mind becomes, for MacDonald, a means of negotiating the relationship between the realms of the physical and the spiritual. In Phantastes, for example, Anodos" physical experience (achieved through the genre of fantasy) of his own mind in Fairy Land, concludes with reference to the afterlife. The mind in this (and MacDonald"s other novels) provides the means by which transcendence is achieved.</p>
doi:10.26686/wgtn.17003140 fatcat:247zlcmugncdfmpo3cysavgn5e