, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 31-60

The grieving city

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Abstract

Using a fragment from Lucan’s De bello civili as a convenient fulcrum for the exploration of the theme of Kingship, the article takes recourse to Propp’s model to show that a conventional ‘plot’ can be uncovered in the fragment. It then isolates a number of basic motifs found in it and shows that they recur, at predictable points and with predictable functions, in other textual versions of this ‘plot’. Thirdly, it argues that the integration of plot and motifs into one pattern over a wealth of widely disparate texts provides reliable evidence as to the existence and nature of a European theme of kingship in which the figure of woman plays a conspicuous role. The article contends that this is the old theme of Sovereignty which, though mostly familiar to students in certain areas of medieval Celtic fiction, can be shown to obtain in other European literatures; a subsidiary contention will be that the Sovereignty theme can be approached morphologically. It is shown that by the side of the Adventure of the Hero there is need for a second, more inclusive model that will do justice to the role the female figure plays in the heroic adventure. The article also concludes that (pace Propp) structure and motifs are not two independent or unrelated aspects of the text.