The narrative structures of Robert Graves' historical fiction: a progression toward a conception of the hero in history

  • Ian Firla

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Most commentators on Robert Graves’ writings agree upon the importance of his ideas on mythology to the development of his unique theories on poets and poetry. Few critics have undertaken to apply the same approach toward an understanding of his fiction. This thesis undertakes to fill that gap by investigating Robert Graves’ historical fiction in order to test whether his theories on mythology and poetry can also be found to play a part in his conception of history and historical legends. To that end, Graves’ historical novels have been analysed from various narratological perspectives in order to uncover the often complex relationship between the author, his narrators, and the reader. Robert Graves’ heroes as autobiographers, and narrators as biographers, are found to suffer psychological neuroses that are usually the result of an overly acute awareness of history. They seem to be aware of the process by which actions and events are ascribed mythic qualities which pollute the story of their real lives. Some of Graves’ heroes fall victim to this process whilst others attempt to gain from it. Invariably, as the thesis demonstrates, they all fail because they lack an awareness of the single true story to which Graves himself subscribed: that of the White Goddess
Date of Award1998
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
  • University of Leicester
SupervisorPatrick Quinn (Supervisor)

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