Threads of influence
: Greek tragedy and its relevance to the contemporary novel, with specific reference to Donna Tartt's 'The secret history', and my novel, 'The first seven years'

  • Monika Turner

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This MPhil concerns the contemporary literary novel and how it has been influenced by the Golden Age of Greek tragedy. It comprises of three parts: the thesis and the novel, hereby presented, and the journal of creative experiences, which was observed at viva. My thesis examines the historical development of Greek tragedy and its structure. It further explores how tragedy has influenced writers through the ages, culminating in the literary tragedy of today. The methodology of tragic form is investigated in the works of writers educated in Greek tragic structure, and also those with no classical background. This thesis aims to show how novelists without a classical education have accessed the tragic form, via threads of literary influence, and utilised it successfully, albeit often unconsciously. My novel, The First Seven Years, is a work of contemporary tragic fiction. It tells the story of one woman’s attempts to do the best for her child. Trapped between raising her young son, Alfie, and caring for an increasingly frail elderly relative, Kate becomes emotionally and physically stretched. When she discovers Alfie has been badly bullied in his failing state school, her attempts to change schools have tragic consequences. Finally, my journal, presented at viva, compiles my creative thoughts, notes and research for both novel and thesis in one portfolio. My original notebooks show much of my novel’s planning and I have included visual images used of characters, buildings, locations, Kate’s photography and Martha’s pottery. Factual research is also integrated; investigating peripheral neuropathy, school league tables and admissions criteria. Thesis research includes relevant newspaper cuttings, programmes to Oedipus Rex and Phèdre, readings by DBC Pierre & Jeanette Winterson, and an interview with David Guterson. This journal has proved invaluable throughout my MPhil, both as an inspiration and an aide-mémoire.
    Date of Award2010
    Original languageEnglish


    • Greek drama (Tragedy) - History and criticism
    • Turner, Monika - First seven years
    • Tartt, Donna - Secret history

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