The Good Liberal and the Scoundrel Author: Fantasy, Dissent, and neoliberal subjectivity in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

Article


Maddison, S. 2014. The Good Liberal and the Scoundrel Author: Fantasy, Dissent, and neoliberal subjectivity in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Extrapolation. 55 (2), pp. 199-219.
AuthorsMaddison, S.
Abstract

Philip Pullman, author of the
His Dark Materials
trilogy, has acquired an impressive
critical reputation and acquired a favored role in British culture as a social
commentator. This essay attempts to link the pleasures associated with the trilogy
with the politics inscribed in them, and consider both in the context of Pullman’s role
in the civil society. The essay suggests that
The Northern Lights
offers pleasures in
fantastical and metaphysical possibilities, and social confederacies that potentially
offset the affective privations of neoliberalism. These possibilities are set in the
context of recent theories of the “enterprise society.” The essay draws attention
to a number of discontinuities that unfold as the trilogy progresses, and suggests
that these undermine the possibilities inherent in the first novel. These disconti
-
nuities throw the role of fantasy and alternative universes into question, and reveal
the limitations of Pullman’s fiction. The essay considers the limit and scope of
Pullman’s political vision, both as a function of his fiction and his public engagement
with social issues, and suggests that he exemplifies Raymond Williams’s concept
of “bourgeois dissent” in which political critique and a continuing investment in
traditional institutions and class hierarchy can be mutually reinforcing.

JournalExtrapolation
Journal citation55 (2), pp. 199-219
ISSN2047-7708
0014-5483
Year2014
PublisherLiverpool University Press for Science Fiction Research Association
Accepted author manuscript
License
CC BY-NC-ND
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.3828/extr.2014.12
Publication dates
PrintJan 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited25 Oct 2016
Copyright informationReproduced with permission of Liverpool University Press. This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. The definitive, published, version of record is available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.3828/extr.2014.12
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