Monash University
20170226-Riverlea-Thesis.pdf (4.57 MB)

My First Book of Greek Myths: Retelling Ancient Myths to Modern Children

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posted on 2017-03-06, 01:45 authored by Miriam Riverlea
Children’s literature is one of the most visible contexts in which the myths of ancient Greece are retold today. In this thesis I argue that contemporary retellings of these myths produced for children and young adults deserve recognition as a significant cultural phenomenon and warrant more sustained critical attention than they have previously received. Over the last four or so decades, scores of retellings have been published, building on a storytelling tradition that can be traced back to Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Kingsley and includes the influential mid-twentieth century storyteller Roger Lancelyn Green. This thesis engages with more than seventy diverse publications, including picture books for very young readers, young adult fiction, retellings of individual myths and anthology collections.
   In this thesis I ask why do we retell Greek myth, and why do we do it to children? Why do these ancient stories continue to exert such a hold on their audiences? What does the world of myth look like? And to what degree can a retelling diverge from an original source before it ceases to be identifiable as retelling?
   This thesis is structured around the ideas of the child, the myth and the text, and examines the myriad intersections between these concepts. It adopts multiple methodologies, employing narratology, psychoanalysis and other modes of literary criticism to analyse this corpus of texts and the ways in which the myths have been reworked. Moreover, it examines the ideological motivations for inducting a new generation of readers into this ancient storytelling tradition, and addresses the ways that they communicate both with children and their adult guardians. I argue that many texts are self-conscious about the conditions within which they will be read or performed. Metafictional and intertextual elements feature prominently in many retellings, and the motifs of weaving and storage are regularly employed as symbols of the complex shape and the enduring survival of the mythic tradition. It seems likely that in the future mythic retellings will become increasingly self-reflexive.
   The project has a personal dimension to it. My own childhood encounters with mythic retellings have played a formative role in influencing the course of my academic study and in particular, setting the parameters and scope of this thesis. Now with young children of my own, I am mindful of my new role and responsibilities in sharing the stories with them. In addition, I am interested in retellings which feature an Australian perspective, arguing that they demonstrate that ancient Greek stories can remain relevant in a very different cultural and temporal context.


Principal supervisor

Jane Montgomery Griffiths

Additional supervisor 1

Rebecca-Anne do Rozario

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Theatre, Performance and Music


Master of Arts

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts

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