Rewriting a Mythic Nation
: Welsh Women Writers Recovering Welsh Myth and Folklore

  • Bethan Coombs

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis examines the function of Welsh mythology, fairy tale and folklore in a selection of works by twentieth- and twenty-first-century Anglophone Welsh women writers who choose to engage with such source material. Its aim is to provide a critical response to those recoveries through feminist and postcolonial theoretical readings.

    Spanning a century, between 1914 and 2013, its chapters discuss novels by two canonical Welsh writers – Hilda Vaughan, whose work belongs to the first half of the twentieth century, and Alice Thomas Ellis, writing in the second half – followed by two further chapters analysing relevant material drawn from the short story and poetry genres. The final two chapters interrogate novellas by women contributors to Seren Press’s recent series, New Stories from The Mabinogion (2009 – 2013) and thus provide an inaugural critical response to that series: I examine contributions by Gwyneth Lewis, Fflur Dafydd, Trezza Azzopardi, and Tishani Doshi.

    Throughout this thesis I argue that in the act of recovering and retelling the source narratives, these writers both draw out issues of gender and nationhood embedded in the originals and explore contemporary issues of gender and nationhood emerging from within their socio-historic contexts. When Welsh women writers select Welsh myth, fairy tales and folklore as mediums through which to comment on those issues as paradigms of gender and nationhood, those paradigms are doubly interrogated. They are examined in the source material and they are woven into new narratives which explore the writer’s contemporaneous experience of Welsh womanhood. Further, Welsh women writers who actively choose to draw on and recover Welsh myth are, in so doing, rejecting the veracity and prestige of Classical myths and canonised fairy tales as exemplar narratives par excellence. Their choice may be an aspect of a deeper interrogation of discourses of power which underpin all myth and fairy tales.
    Date of AwardSept 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDiana Wallace (Supervisor)

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