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The Mythical Method in Song and Saga, Prose and Verse: Part One

The Mythical Method in Song and Saga, Prose and Verse: Part One

Nohrnberg, James C.

Arthuriana 21.1 (2011)

Abstract

T.S. Eliot’s ‘mythical method’ is a publishing author’s practice of taking an ancient or received story as the organizing principle for a self-standing and contemporary narrative. Joyce’s use of Ulysses is an example. Homer’s epic had a long history of exegesis, including serving as one of the sources of Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost.

Let us begin by working backward from the famous first note that T.S. Eliot added to The Waste Land: ‘Not only the title, but the plan and a good deal of the incidental symbolism of the poem were suggested by Miss Jesse L. Weston’s book on the Grail legend: From Ritual to Romance.’ In the first chapter of Weston’s book (published just two years before the epochal poem) Eliot and his readers found the following ‘genuine elucidation of the Grail problem’:

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