Title page for ETD etd-12192005-121046

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Du Plessis, Hermanus Johannes
URN etd-12192005-121046
Document Title 'Child and serpent, star and stone - all one' : the duality of God and nature in children's literature
Degree MA (English)
Department Modern European Languages
Advisor Name Title
Ms M Brown
  • God in literature
  • dualism in literature
  • nature in literature
  • children's literature
Date 2002-04-01
Availability unrestricted
This thesis argues that the human mind recognizes within the natural world a dimension of reality that is beyond its knowledge and understanding. Nature confronts it with an ineffable power the source of which is often sensed as a numinous presence. But the divine manifested by nature also assumes the qualities exhibited by nature, and this implies beauty as well as terror. Indeed, in the literature considered in this study duality can be seen to constitute a mark of the divine. To accept the dual forces of nature as a whole, both the beauty and the terror, light and dark, as a unity, one needs the vision of the Romantic Child.

The Child of Romantic conception is able to accept the dynamics of the dual forces, because he has the ability to wonder; he has not been sundered from his natural environment like modern man. The realm of Romantic Childhood is seen as a timeless place where the Child experiences a profound communion with nature. Ever since the industrial revolution this place has become a repository of ideas, tradition and literature discarded by a technologically advancing civilization that scorns the link with the past and with nature, which is in the custody of the poet, the true hero, and the Romantic Child.

For this reason, the ideas germane to this study are significantly represented in works of so-called 'children's literature'. The duality of the divine is explored within various contexts - as manifested in the natures of god and goddess figures, the cycles of life and death, the dual conceptions of the man-centred pastoral garden and the god-centred wilderness, or the mind of the cultural other. From a wide array of sources, dating from different periods of time and written by authors of divergent backgrounds and stances, a seemingly unified and coherent body of Romantic teaching emerges. These sources include works by P.L. Travers, c.s. Lewis, Walter de la Mare, Richard Adams and Jamake Highwater. The coherence of their teaching attests to the poetical validity of their timeless archetypal thoughts.

© 2001, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Du Plessis, HJ 2001, ”Child and serpent, star and stone – all one” : the duality of God and nature in children’s literature, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-12192005-121046/ >


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