Unearthing The Epic
: Historio-Mythographic Experimentations in the Poetry Collections The Seer Sung Husband, Leásungspell & Civil Insolencies

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This PhD is comprised of two elements – a portfolio of previously published creative work and a critical commentary in the form of a thesis. The portfolio consists of three poetry collections: The Seer Sung Husband (Smokestack Books, 2010), Leásungspell (Smokestack Books, 2016) and Civil Insolencies (Smokestack Books, 2019). These collections bear a commonality of approach which represents a coherent body of work contributing to the field of contemporary poetry. The Seer Sung Husband explores the turbulent years of the Henrician Reformation and the Pilgrimage of Grace of 1536. Leásungspell, set in 657, describes a journey across the border from the Kingdom of Bernicia into Deira by an Anglo-Saxon monk named Oswin. Civil Insolencies reflects upon historical events within the North of England during the British Civil Wars, focussing primarily upon the Battle of Guisborough in 1643. The compositional methodology, language choice and poetic principles within the works represents an experimental approach in combining the archaic and the modern, employing extensive use of dialect and contrasts traditional verse patterns with organic form. The thesis asks to what extent the poetry collections can be viewed within the context and continuum of epic poetry. To answer this question, the study discusses the continued, although often marginal, production of epic verse since the early modern period within the Western literary tradition before identifying the role, function, influence and key conventions of the epic, and its development and adaptation due to socio-cultural dynamics, thereby highlighting the versatility of the form. The analysis of the portfolio focusses upon three closely related compositional strategies. Firstly, it identifies the principles and intended effects of the ‘historio-mythographic’ approach employed. Secondly, it explores the overt use of intertextual allusion to increase the ‘pan-temporal’ resonances within the work. Lastly, it investigates the linguistic and syntactic experimentations within each work paying attention to the dynamic between form and content and how, when and why they embrace an aesthetics of fragmentation. By situating The Seer Sung Husband, Leásungspell and Civil Insolencies within the evolving tradition of epic poetry, with a recognition of its origins in bardic and pre-literate tribal societies and a consideration of the continued effect of ‘mythopoeic thought’ within contemporary culture, the study reveals the enduring relevance of the epic’s ability to articulate ongoing and recurring fractures within the symbolic narratives of collective cohesion.
Date of Award24 Jun 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorRachel Carroll (Supervisor)

Cite this