The Subtle Knife

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The "grand building" (Pullman, 1997 : 78) which provides the titular quote is the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford. The visit to the museum occurs in the second novel of Pullman's trilogy, The Subtle Knife (1997), which sees Lyra leave her world to enter the parallel world of Will; a universe that is distinctly recognisable to that of the readers own. Whilst in this world, Lyra visits the Pitt-Rivers Museum and finds there: "an old glass case with a black-painted wooden frame [within which] there were a number of human skulls, and some of them had holes in them" (79). At this point in the narrative, she is engaged both in the act of being seen and seeing; Lyra is studying the trepanned skulls on display in the case, but also being considered and…show more content…
The museum is a space of resolution for its visitors; one which adheres to its definition as a space which is "in the service of society and its development" (ICOM, 2007) through its provision of narrative resolution and catalysis. In doing so, The Subtle Knife subverts the image of the museum in children's literature as an eternal destination for school visits and instead reconfigures the flat museum landscape as a dynamic space full of narrative potential. In a similar manner to this, Stoneheart by Charlie Fletcher transforms a school trip to the Natural History Museum in London into a life and death struggle against the fabric of the city itself, whilst A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond, a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, sees Orpheus enter the underworld through gates on the Ouseburn, located near to the Seven Stories Museum for Children's Literature in Newcastle. Blitzed by Robert Swindells sees a school trip to Eden Camp in North Yorkshire transform into an adventure set in London at the time of the Blitz. Through their denial of the linear, passive narrative of the museum within children's literature, each character denies the definite imposition of fact upon their journey, and subsequently redefines the museum as a unpredictable space of impulse and

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