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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.
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VI. The Importance of the Fairy Tale


VI.The Importance of the Fairy Tale

The fairy-tales are like water-flowers; they lie so lightly on the surface, but their roots go down deep into a dark and ancient past. (Travers 1999, 2002)

In 1975, P.L.Travers published a collection of five versions of “The Sleeping Beauty”, as well as her own retelling of the tale in her work About the Sleeping Beauty. Moreover, throughout her life she wrote numerous essays on folklore and myth, the majority of which were issued in the review Parabola, and later published collectedly in What the Bee Knows: Reflections on Myth, Symbol and Story (1989). In the course of her life, Travers became more and more interested in myth and story, with the fairy tale taking up a large part of her research interest. Also, her Mary Poppins collection is embedded in the tradition of the fairy tale, as Travers inserts a number of chapters that exhibit structural as well as thematic parallels to the traditional folk tale. As a result, in order to examine the Mary Poppins stories in the light of this genre, it is indispensable to have a closer look at the fairy tale discourse.

6.1The Fairy Tale

Jack Zipes, one of the leading scholars in the field, provides us with significant insight into the fairy tale genre. He reminds us of the necessity to bear in mind the distinction between the oral fairy tale and its literary counterpart (cf. OCF xv). As literary...

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