Elizabeth Pentland ~ York University
Milton for Young Atheists: His Dark Materials and the End of Authority

"We have to build the Republic of Heaven where we are, because for us there is no elsewhere" (Amber Spyglass 363). This paper will examine very briefly the representation of literary and religious Authority in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, a fantasy trilogy for children that radically rewrites Milton's Paradise Lost. Pullman's work came under intense scrutiny last year in the months leading up to the release of The Golden Compass, a motion picture based on the first volume in the series. News of the film sparked protests from religious groups and caused some school boards in Canada and the US to pull the books from their shelves pending a review of their contents. Indeed, The Golden Compass ranked fourth on the American Library Association's list of the ten most frequently challenged books of 2007. At issue were Pullman's religious views and his criticism of institutional religion-at least one critic referred to him as a "militant English atheist" and to his books as "Atheism for kids." My own reading will consider Pullman's complex and controversial work as both an extension and a critique of Milton's project.