George MacDonald is generally remembered as a benevolent preacher who wrote fairy-tale books for children. Closer reading, however, reveals one of the most startlingly inventive, slyly subversive Scottish writers of the nineteenth century. His writings for children emerged from his own long struggle with faith and doubt in the face of multiple bereavements, chronic illness, and the persistent threat of early death.
Haunted Childhoods in George MacDonald reconsiders death and divine love in MacDonald’s writings for children. It examines his private letters and public sermons, obscure early writings, and most beloved stories. Setting his work alongside texts by James Hogg and Andrew Lang, it argues that MacDonald appropriated traditional Scottish folk narratives to help child readers apprehend his mystically-inclined understanding of mortality.

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J. Patrick Pazdziora (Ph.D., St Andrews, 2013) is Project Assistant Professor at the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Tokyo, Komaba. He researches Scottish literature in the long nineteenth century, especially the interplay between literature and religion.
David Robb, University of Dundee

“John Patrick Pazdziora’s new book offers a notably clear, focused, and carefully argued account of a crucial dimension of George MacDonald’s vision: his treatment of the theme of death in that central aspect of his achievement, his writing for children…. Notably, also, the book firmly roots its account of MacDonald in his Scottish origins, experiences, and inheritance.”

David Jasper, University of Glasgow

“This is a book about children and other serious things—haunted childhoods, death, and mystical theology. It reveals George MacDonald as far more than the Victorian genius of C. S. Lewis, but a major Scottish writer and, in his way, a serious religious thinker.… John Pazdziora’s work makes a profound contribution to the study of literature and theology as well as being a major contribution to work on the writings of George MacDonald.”

Marysa Demoor, Ghent University

“Pazdziora’s innovative and insightful exploration of the work of George MacDonald is a must-read for all those scholars intrigued by the late nineteenth-century infatuation with death, the young child, and the imprint of religion, and the tensions within that unlikely combination.”
Introduction: ‘The harvest of the grave’
 1 ‘Stranded by night on the low coast of Death’
 2 ‘To no system could I subscribe’
 3 ‘The essence of religion’
 4 ‘Joy of Being’
 5 Contents Outline

1 ‘Is there a fairy-country, brother?’: Letters from Arundel
 1 ‘The best thing’
 2 ‘Serious difficulties in the church’
 3 ‘The aspiring child’
 4 ‘Trying to catch the corn-scraich’
 5 ‘The theme that most inspired George MacDonald’

2 ‘Any other child is like me’: Sickness at Huntly
 1 ‘I should not have known her’
 2 ‘Childness’
 3 ‘Trees are growing coffins’
 4 ‘The outward form of birth’

3 ‘A whole churchyard of spectres’: Death from Within
 1 ‘The Psyche is aloft’
 2 ‘I was dead, and right content’
 3 ‘The Father of fathers’
 4 ‘I brooded over tales of terror’

4 ‘Death and other painful realities’: The Dying Child
 1‘What he did remember was very hard to tell’
 2‘I do not think he was right’
 3‘I thought you were dead’
 4‘People call me by dreadful names’

5 ‘Questions that can never be answered’: The Child Alone
 1 ‘The sun, moon, and stars lived there’
 2 ‘Jesus is dead’
 3 ‘Mountains and valleys’
 4 ‘Alone in the strange night’
 5 ‘We are all orphans, you and I’

6 ‘I should so like to be myself’: The Stolen Child
 1 ‘I don’t like the fairies’
 2 ‘Hold me fast and fear me not’
 3 ‘The right critics of them will be children’

Conclusion: ‘Now we must wait’

Along with scholars and enthusiasts of George MacDonald, the book will interest students and researchers of nineteenth-century Scottish literature, children’s literature, fairy tales, and the interrelation between literature and theology.
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