”Crossover fiction” and narrative as therapy: George MacDonald’s Adela Cathcart
AbstractPrior to the publication – famously assisted by George MacDonald and family - of C. L. Dodgson’s (or ‘Lewis Carroll’s’) Alice’s adventures in Wonderland (1865), there was little market for Kunstmärchen or literary fairy-tales in Victorian England. To get his own fairy-tales published, MacDonald had to insert them in the ‘realistic’ frame of his adult novel Adela Cathcart (1864), in which a series of stories (including fairy-tales) are composed and read to a group whose secret purpose is to cure a young woman suffering from the kind of mysterious non-specific illness typical of young Victorian women. The narrator ‘John Smith’, transparently a MacDonald-persona, says of his first contribution (‘The light princess’) that it is ‘a child’s story – a fairy-tale, namely; though I confess I think it fitter for grown than for young children’. This anticipates MacDonald’s later celebrated which virtually provided the slogan for ‘crossover fiction’, about writing ‘for the childlike, whether of five, or fifty, or seventy-five’. This paper will address not only the issues of target audience raised by the framenarrative, but also the issues raised by the three fairy-tales themselves, each of which is arguably related to a specific stage of life (childhood, adolescence and old age).
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