I'll be making three main points.
- The Golden Compass is very self-conscious about its relationship to other literature. When you have an epigraph from Milton, you are not playing around. The book is situating itself in a specific, very eminent, masculine literary tradition, even as it tries to intervene in that tradition. Pullman’s hero is Milton by way of Blake; his enemy is C. S. Lewis.
- The Golden Compass is obsessed with gender. It can’t help being obsessed with gender given the literary tradition it’s taking on. Pullman is explicit about this, and he specifically sees himself making a feminist intervention. I argue, however, that Pullman’s anti-Lewis intervention is subsumed by the logic of the very tradition he’s interrogating.
- The tradition into which Pullman inserts himself is variously Christian; consequently The Golden Compass constructs a complex (and somewhat garbled) theology. Part of this theology involves imagining souls as separable from, and gendered complementarily to, the body.
Should be fun!