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The Daughters of Modron: Evangeline Walton's feminist re-visioning of the 'Mabinogi'

Thomas, Nicole A. 2013. The Daughters of Modron: Evangeline Walton's feminist re-visioning of the 'Mabinogi'. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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The Mabinogi Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton consists of four novels: Prince of Annwn (1974), The Children of Llyr (1971), The Song of Rhiannon (1972) and The Island of the Mighty (1970, first published under the title The Virgin and the Swine, 1936). This thesis locates the Tetralogy as a founding text of modern feminist fantasy fiction by analysing its rewriting of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi. The analysis demonstrates how feminist debate, Welsh medieval literature and Celtic history combine to produce an important, if hitherto largely ignored, contribution to both fantasy fiction and women’s writing. Walton re-visions the Mabinogi as a tale of a fictional Celtic Wales’s transition from a mother-worshipping tribal society to the patriarchal, monotheistic power structure that governed the construction of the medieval text. The fantasy genre which Walton helped form enables the author to use magic as a symbol of female agency. The female characters in The Mabinogion Tetralogy with the strongest connection with the fictional deity referred to as the Mother – Rhiannon and Arianrhod – also have the highest degree of magical capabilities. Conversely, those who lose their connection with the Mother – Branwen, Penardim and Blodeuwedd – become subject to the control of their male counterparts. A feminist reading of the Tetralogy, which draws upon the work of Luce Irigaray, reveals Walton’s series as a story about the cultural demise of Mother-worship and the institutionalisation of a patriarchal society that permanently re-defined gender roles. An examination of Walton’s source material elucidates how the author uses historical research to provide a realistic framework for the Tetralogy. By examining how Walton merges history with fantasy, and a medieval text with modern feminist thought, this thesis argues for a re-evaluation of Evangeline Walton as one of the most important developers of feminist fantasy fiction.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:14

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