Graves and the Goddess: Essays on Robert Graves's the White Goddess

Graves and the Goddess: Essays on Robert Graves's the White Goddess

Graves and the Goddess: Essays on Robert Graves's the White Goddess

Graves and the Goddess: Essays on Robert Graves's the White Goddess


Presenting the personal mythology and poetic theories of Robert Graves, has intrigued and mystified readers since its publication in 1948. This volume contains 15 essays from scholars assessing the work from a variety of perspectives. Coverage includes the personal and historical tensions that shaped the book, the challenges of interpretation it poses for the reader, and its influence on other poets. Distributed by Associated University Presses. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (


Ian Firla and Grevel Lindop

According to Keith Sagar, the single most important influence which Ted Hughes offered to the intellectual development of Sylvia Plath as their relationship began in 1956 was “a fully worked-out belief in the poetic mythology of Robert Graves's The White Goddess” (10).

The presence of Graves's “Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth” at the heart of the most turbulent and productive Anglo-American poetic relationship of the twentieth century is no accident. Neglected by most academic scholars of modern poetry, alternately celebrated and reviled by feminists, banished from the syllabus in departments of classics, Celtic studies, and anthropology, The White Goddess has nonetheless exerted a persistent influence in these and many other fields for more than half a century and has continued, above all, to be a central source of inspiration for poets, the more potent for remaining hidden.

A complex work in itself—so complex, indeed, that some have dismissed it as unreadable—The White Goddess, first published in 1948, emerged from contexts of equal complexity. Like so many powerful and unclassifiable mythopoeic works with which literary history has yet to come to terms—Peake's Gormenghast, Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, and Charles Williams's Taliessin sequence among them—it was a product of the 1940s, written during the stressful years of World War ii and its dazed aftermath. Its writing marked a turning point in the literary career of Robert Graves himself, involving a belated immersion in the Celtic subject matter which had been the domain of his Irish literary forebears, usheringin his return to Mallorca after ten years of absence, and signalling a new phase in his poetic and emotional development which would see him become a charismatic public figure, his life enriched and complicated by the succession of young “Muses” who arrived to share the living-out of his personal myth.

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