The Early Poetry of Robert Graves: The Goddess Beckons

The Early Poetry of Robert Graves: The Goddess Beckons

by Frank L. Kersnowski
     
 

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Like many men of his generation, poet Robert Graves was indelibly marked by his experience of trench warfare in World War I. The horrific battles in which he fought and his guilt over surviving when so many perished left Graves shell-shocked and disoriented, desperately seeking a way to bridge the rupture between his conventional upbringing and the uncertainties of

Overview

Like many men of his generation, poet Robert Graves was indelibly marked by his experience of trench warfare in World War I. The horrific battles in which he fought and his guilt over surviving when so many perished left Graves shell-shocked and disoriented, desperately seeking a way to bridge the rupture between his conventional upbringing and the uncertainties of postwar British society. In this study of Graves’s early poetry, Frank Kersnowski explores how his war neurosis opened a door into the unconscious for Graves and led him to reject the essential components of the Western idea of reality—reason and predictability. In particular, Kersnowski traces the emergence in Graves’s early poems of a figure he later called "The White Goddess," a being at once terrifying and glorious, who sustains life and inspires poetry. Drawing on interviews with Graves’s family, as well as unpublished correspondence and drafts of poems, Kersnowski argues that Graves actually experienced the White Goddess as a real being and that his life as a poet was driven by the purpose of celebrating and explaining this deity and her matriarchy.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
When Robert Graves returned to England after World War I, he wrote of seeing the heads of dead comrades on the bodies of the living. So he took advantage of the then-new practice of psychiatry to treat both his shell shock and a second difficulty, sexual trauma. Like many young Englishmen in that strait-laced era, Graves had gone from same-sex crushes on schoolmates straight into marriage; on his wedding night, both he and his bride were virgins. Before long, this already fretful union became even more difficult when the mercurial poet Laura Riding muscled her way in, scandalizing everyone and eventually attempting suicide, from which she emerged badly injured and more demanding of Graves's attentions than ever. Psychiatry helped, in part because it enabled Graves to look beyond the narrow confines of logic, to develop his concept of the White Goddess and recognize "matriarchy as the basic form of society, the goddess as the all-powerful deity, and his life as poet and scholar driven by the purpose of celebrating and explaining the matriarchy and its deity." Kersnowksi (English, Trinity Univ.) uses these ideas to elucidate Graves's early work in a solid book with a slightly misleading title, since there is as much here about the poet's life as there is about his writing. Kersnowski had several frank interviews with Graves before his death in 1985, and he was aided by the poet's daughter, who provided information and read an early draft of this study. For academic libraries. David Kirby, Florida State Univ., Tallahassee

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780292700819
Publisher:
University of Texas Press
Publication date:
11/06/2013
Series:
Literary Modernism Series
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
2 MB

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