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UBC Theses and Dissertations

"Advanced, forthright, signifficant" : a Bakhtinian analysis of Geoffrey Willans' and Ronald Searle's Molesworth series Walker, Elizabeth Jean Milner


Geoffrey Willans' and Ronald Searle’s Molesworth books, published in four volumes between 1953 and 1959, are a series of boarding school parodies. Despite great sales success and cult popularity, the books have been dismissed by academics and book reviewers alike as dated satires. Isabel Quigly calls them “pure farce” (276), while Thomas Jones claims they are “terribly cosy” (para. 7). This thesis adopts three pertinent theories of Mikhail Bakhtin in order to reconsider the four books in the series – Down with Skool!, How to be Topp, Whizz for Atomms, and Back in the Jug Agane. Through the application of Bakhtin’s concepts of chronotope, heteroglossia and carnival, I show that the Molesworth books are more complex and radical than first assumed, and therefore constitute a remarkable response to the phenomenon of the boarding school genre.

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