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The Man Who Was Not Peter Pan: J.M. Barrie’s Later Writings

Photograph of J.M. Barrie in front of a window
Photograph of J.M. Barrie in front of a window
Thursday, March 28, 2013 - 1:00pm

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Room 38
121 Wall St.
New Haven, CT 06511

BEINECKE VISITING FELLOW TALK

Marjorie G. Wynne Fellow
Silvia Herreros de Tejada
Universidad Nebrija, Madrid

J. M. Barrie's status rests chiefly with the boy that would not grow up - Peter Pan emerged as a character of such dimensions that he cast his author into oblivion. For years, research on Barrie was based exclusively on a biographical and/or psychological comparison of the man with his creation.

We should consider Peter Pan as a creative motif more than as a reflection of the write's personality. In fact, more mature conceptions of the character sway over Barrie's later works: Dear Brutus, Mary Rose, The Boy David, amongst others, deal with themes like the non-existing child, the doppelgänger, the hopelessness of free will and, especially, with the possibility of obtaining a second chance by means of fantasy. Interestingly enough, the concept of fantasy as we knew it from the times of Neverland suffers a drastic change: in the Beinecke archives of Barrie's earlier versions of his writings, fantasy seems to waver between imagination, reminiscence, foresight and -in opposition to Peter Pan's Edwardian joie de vivre- a profound sense of Victorian religious doubt.

Silvia Herreros de Tejada teaches Literature and Creation at the Antonio Nebrija University in Madrid. 

Her book Everyone Grows Up Except Peter- J. M. Barrie and the Peter Pan Myth was the first book in Spanish about J. M. Barrie and it deserved her the Caja Madrid award for non-fiction in 2009. In that same year, she translated all of Barrie’s Peter Pan books into Spanish, some of which remained unknown.

Later on, she completed her PhD in Communication Science, The Ages of Peter Pan: Literary and Film Adaptations of the Eternal Child, 1902-1910, in which she came to the conclusion that —within the realm of adaptation— Peter Pan fulfilled a number of different life stages and crises, and could therefore be interpreted as a metaphor of the human life cycle, despite the character’s typical association with emotional immaturity. 

She is at present embarking on a new project that deals with Peter Pan as a creative motif, rather than a reflection of the writer’s personality. At the Beinecke, she is working with the early manuscripts of some of Barrie’s plays—those in which the possibility of a second chance is contemplated, and where Peter Pan is not a character, but a creative undercurrent.

 

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