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Myths and the Mythmaker

A Literary Account of J.M. Barrie’s Formative Years


R.D.S. Jack

J.M. Barrie’s critical reputation is unusually problematic. Originally viewed as a genius to rank with Shaw and Wilde, Barrie soon fell victim to damaging psychological theories about his life and his patriotism. The few critics who have commented on Barrie have colluded with dominant myths about a figure who, like his most famous creation, never grew up, who abandoned Scotland and made light of his own people when serious social analyses of the nation’s condition were called for, and who scorned the opportunities of University learning when at Edinburgh. Myths and the Mythmaker attempts to challenge these myths and offer a just revaluation of Barrie’s genius. Through closely focused textual analyses, it dispels the popular images of Barrie as “escapist” writer and immature, mother-fixated artist. It seeks to replace the narrow prose canon on which the “Oedipal” and “Kailyard” myths are based with a thorough account of his Victorian apprenticeship. New research into Barrie’s early work and criticism show the enduring influence of his Edinburgh education on his creative writing, his academic articles, and his own complex views on artistic genius.