Myth and legend in post-war English poetry
The thesis investigates both how and why many of the best post-war poets have moved back to use myth and legend just when they seemed finally discredited. Chapter One briefly discusses the various scholarly theories of myth, and sharpens the critical terminology to be employed. It describes the personal myth-systems of Yeats, Graves and Lawrence and, conversely, the four systems most generally used by modern poets. The following four chapters study, in turn, four major approaches to the use of myth in poetry. Chapter 2 shows how Seamus Heaney' s work employs legend as archetype; the history of Ulster being erected as a timeless metaphor to illuminate the present Troubles. Chapter Three takes the poetry of Geoffrey Hill as an example of the development of newly created legend, culminating with that centred on King Offa of Mercia. Chapter Four examines Thom Gunn' s use of myth as archetype, showing how the timeless can be given contemporary force, either through existential philosophy or Californian psychedelia. Chapter Five explores Ted Hughes' creation of a new myth, a new reality, the crowning achievement. Chapter Six discusses why myth is still relevant, distinguishing its careful adoption into four modern stylistic traditions and its four major modes of relevance. Legend is seen as a form of place, myth as a form of time, and the best new poetry is recognised as utilizing both, a surprise invocation of the White Goddess.