Graves’s Vera Historia
Robert Graves’s 1955 novel Homer’s Daughter deserves attention for its sly commentary on the genre of historical fiction; its complex relationship to Homer’s Odyssey; and its spirited protagonist, a young woman whose adventures as a lover and a poet diverge from the painful experiences that Graves attributes to male poets and (in ‘Ulysses’) to the mythical hero Ulysses. Inspired by Samuel Butler’s claim that the Odyssey was written by a Sicilian princess who portrayed herself as Nausicaa, Graves claims to reconstruct Nausicaa’s true circumstances. By presenting his modern novel as more authentic than the ancient epic, Graves wittily addresses theoretical questions about representing the past that he treats more seriously and straightforwardly in I, Claudius. By depicting Nausicaa as impervious to love and effortlessly able to compose Homer’s verses, he offers a cheering antitype to the struggling, abject male poet who emerges in his other writings, especially The White Goddess.
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