The Fisher King, the Grail and the Goddess: Ted Hughes’s aquatic myths

The Fisher King, the Grail and the Goddess: Ted Hughes’s aquatic myths – by Yvonne Reddick, University of Warwick

“Abstract: This paper presents some research for my PhD thesis on fluvial landscapes in the works of Ted Hughes and Alice Oswald. The thesis as a whole aims to explore the relationship between myths of the genius loci in the English poetic canon, and the eco-poets’ mythology of riverine landscapes in crisis. In this paper, I set out to explore the role of the Grail and Fisher King, favoured figures of T. S. Eliot, in Ted Hughes’s river-poetry. The Grail is an object of medieval legend, but this paper contends that Hughes follows the example of Jessie Weston in making it fit into a family of more ancient myths. The fertility myths which Weston views as giving rise to the Grail legend are associated with the aquatic goddess who haunts both Ted Hughes’ poetry and his critical work Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being. I use a combination of methods – contextualization of Hughes’s work with reference to Modernist texts, close analysis of the poetry, and comparisons to the poet’s letters and critical works, in order to uncover the myths behind what is often a very modern, environmentally engaged text. I hypothesize that Hughes’s use of myth gives his poetry a universal, canonical tenor, with its persona as nameless Fisher King and its muse as an abstract Goddess. However, I conclude that at times his use of myth becomes self-mythologizing.”

Full article: http://www.mhra.org.uk/ojs/index.php/wph/article/viewFile/118/79

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