Medievalism and Joan Grigsby’s The Orchid Door

Medievalism and Joan Grigsby’s The Orchid Door

Brother Anthony

Medieval and Early Modern English Studies, Volume 17 No. 1 (2009)


The Celtic revival of the 1890s and the opening years of the 20th century was marked by a series of works, poems, fiction and dramas, published under the name of Fiona MacLeod, supposedly a peasant woman living in the Hebrides. In 1905 it was revealed that the author had in fact been William Sharp, a Scottish writer with no Celtic credentials. Joan Rundall, who grew up in the Scottish Lowlands, published poems in her Peatsmoke volume of 1919 that seem clearly to have been influenced by the works ascribed to Fiona MacLeod. Moving to Japan, then to Korea, she published further volumes as Joan S. Grigsby, first a collection of poems in part inspired by a medieval Japanese legend and finally a collection of medieval Korean poems. She was not the translator of these latter, but had adapted translations made by James Gale. Joan Grigsby’s poems show a clear relationship with Celtic medievalism, and at the same time they demand to be approached in a feminist perspective. There proves to be a close relationship between the two categories.

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