The origin, evolution, and function of the myth of the white goddess in the writings of Robert Graves
This is a study of the development of the myth of the White Goddess in the work of Robert Graves, a subject related to the wider field of the place of myth in modern culture. It begins by looking at the conditions which promoted Graves' interest in myth, principally his experience of the Great War. The responses of other writers are examined to provide a context for understanding Graves' transition from Georgianism to myth, as reflected in his early poetry, autobiography and writings on psychology. Before looking at how Graves' myth was formed, the history of the concept of myth is examined, from primitive peoples to civilized religion. Focus is centred upon the dual tendency of myth to reinforce and to undermine authority. Some of the figures behind Graves' interest in myth and anthropology are subject to scrutiny. An account of the relations between myth, literature and psychology permits the survey of Graves' gradual transition from psychological theory to mythographic speculation. The gradual emergence in his poetry of devotion to a Love Goddess can also be traced. Detailed interpretation of The White Goddess, its arguments and procedures, brings to light Graves' theories of the single poetic theme and the primitive matriarchy, both of which can then be evaluated and set in the context of his dedication to non-rational forms of thought. This leads into a close reading of Graves' major mythological poems, followed by reflections upon the myth's application in his critical writings and cultural commentaries. Finally, consideration is given to Graves' later writings, especially his attraction to Orphism and the adoption of mythic personae in his verse. The influence of the Black Goddess of Wisdom over these later works is interpreted and assessed.