Show Less
Restricted access

Intertextuality and Psychology in P. L. Travers’ «Mary Poppins» Books


Julia Kunz

As we approach the seventieth anniversary of the first appearance of Mary Poppins, interest in P. L. Travers’ most famous creation is still strong and the time is right for a reassessment of a work that is rich in meaning for child and adult readers alike. This book attempts to analyse some of the reasons behind the longevity and the ongoing appeal of the Mary Poppins material, with particular reference to intertextuality and the presence of what Freud described as «the uncanny». By comparing and contrasting the Mary Poppins material with previous texts, it can be seen that Travers has been drawing, consciously and subconsciously, on the great myths and archetypes of the collective human storytelling experience. The idea therefore emerges that the Mary Poppins stories touch on some fundamental aspect of the psyche – an aspect where the symbiosis of security and fear, the familiar and the unknown, are made manifest to the reader, whether as children finding their way into adulthood or as adults recalling their beginnings.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

II. Intertextuality



As one of the main concerns of this book is the extraction of meaning from the Mary Poppins series in the light of its intertextual links, it is necessary to briefly examine ‘intertextuality’ and my usage of the term.

Intertextuality has become quite a broad and fuzzy literary term, especially in the light of Post-Modernism. Graham Allen, however, offers a comprehensive clarification of the term. Firstly, Allen argues that literature contains meaning, with readers extracting meaning during the processes of reading and interpreting (cf. Allen 1). These notions may seem well known to the literary scholar, but it is perhaps important to dwell on them briefly in order to link the meaning of the P.L. Travers’s Mary Poppins series with the notions of intertextuality.

As texts are systems and constructed by codes, the decoding of these texts only works as texts are built on traditions that have been established by previous texts: literary and non-literary. Thus, we come to speak of intertextuality, as any text exhibits a network of cultural modes and relations. In order to establish meaning, then, the reader moves within an immense variety of texts (cf. Allen 1). Hence, literary works must then be understood as networks of texts, since they are built of texts, words and phrases that exhibit multiple meanings at all times (Ibid. 12).

Furthermore, Roland Barthes provides us with the following definition of text. He claims that text is “a multidimensional space in which...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.