Exploring Northern Lights

Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights has sold millions of copies. But why should this story of the fantastic be so enduringly popular? In this podcast, recorded at Durham Book Festival 2015, four Durham University researchers discuss the inspiration and interests surrounding this compelling novel.

The discussion begins by thinking about the ways in which the Northern Lights draws on a long tradition of quest narratives in Western literature, as well as writers such as William Blake and John Milton. The conversation then moves on to explore how Philip Pullman reinvents and subverts conventions, not least by presenting a compelling female heroine.

In this way, stories like Northern Lights continue to tell us about our everyday lives and the world around us in the present: what it means to be kind and what it means to be cruel, whether morality can be divided into black and white or good and bad, the role and power of the church.

If enjoyed this podcast, you might also want to read Lois Burke’s review of this Durham Book Festival event, Citations of the Fantastic.


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