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

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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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IX. Conclusion

Extract

IX.Conclusion

In conclusion, P.L. Travers frequently maintained the idea that for her, life and creativity could be expressed in one single phrase: “thinking is linking” (Travers qtd. in Haggarty 22), much in unison with E.M. Forster’s famous “Only connect!”19. By this notion, she did not refer to a random association of concepts but to the way in which our awareness must be raised to a certain consciousness that can be compared with the Celtic Cauldron or Aboriginal Dreaming (cf. Haggarty 22).

This idea is prevalent in all her writings and it features to a great extent in the Mary Poppins books, as has been demonstrated above. Here, Travers offers the reader a text that exhibits a variety of links to the traditional fairy tale, to myth, and to the works of Victorian and Edwardian authors who paved the way for literature primarily read by children that can be seen to enrich the child reader’s imagination without talking down to him or her, as exemplified by the works of Lewis Carroll and especially, Edith Nesbit. In that sense, bearing in mind Kristeva’s definition of intertextuality as the compilation of non-literary and literary pre-existent texts, Travers’s work becomes extraordinarily fascinating in terms of its intertextuality. Furthermore, intertextuality can be seen to gain quite an elemental meaning once it is applied to P.L. Travers’s writing, who maintains that her main character came out of the primal matter that has produced the earliest texts of human kind.

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