Research paper

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Classical Myth and Margaret Mahy's Young Adult Fiction

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Pohl, Michael

This thesis investigates the importance of classical myth in the young adult fiction of Margaret Mahy. Mahy's novels are full of references to classical myths, both direct and indirect, in names of characters like Dido, Ovid, Ariadne or Hero; in storylines such as Flora's journey to the Underworld-like Viridian to rescue her cousin Anthea, strongly reminiscent of Demeter's rescue of Persephone from Hades, which take their inspiration from classical myth; in seemingly incidental references like the persistent comparisons of Sorry to Charon, the classical ferryman of the dead, in The Changeover. These references point to a deep engagement with the heritage of classical myth. It is an engagement that has not gone unnoticed by scholars of Mahy's work, but it is one that has not enjoyed the dedicated critical attention it deserves. This thesis explores the full importance of classical myth to Mahy's young adult fiction, and shows how an understanding of the classical background of a large selection of Mahy's major novels can both enhance our appreciation of what is already there, as well as open up new avenues for critical engagement with her work.

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