'Those Been the Cokkes Words and Not Myne': Medieval Influences on the Form and Structure of David Jones's The Anathemata

Black, Kirsty. 2008. 'Those Been the Cokkes Words and Not Myne': Medieval Influences on the Form and Structure of David Jones's The Anathemata. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

My thesis examines the ways in which David Jones was influenced by medieval literature and thought whilst composing his long poem, The Anathemata. Although several critics have acknowledged Jones's interest in medieval culture, none has analysed the full extent of the medieval contribution to the poem. My thesis suggests that it is far greater than has previously been thought, and has in fact determined the form and the overall structure of the poem.

The thesis reviews the existing literature concerning The Anathemata, particularly that offering an analysis of the medievalism in the text, or a suggested structure for the poem, and examines the flaws in the structural models proposed to date. The thesis then assesses the impact of various aspects of medieval thought, including historiography, typology and numerology, on Jones's writing. The extent to which such thoughts were mediated through Jones's acquaintance with and reading of contemporary historians is also analysed. Medieval sources range from the genres of chronicle, history and vita, through drama and romance to individual authors such as Malory and Chaucer. These sources are traced in two ways: through an analysis of The Anathemata itself, in which borrowings from medieval literature are apparent through textual allusions and imagery; and through a thorough examination of the contents of Jones's library, which reveals that Jones derived a strong understanding of the medieval perspective from critical and historical works as well as from primary texts. The central tenet of the thesis is that this medieval perspective was a dominant influence in the 'shaping' of the text, defining not only the content of the fragments that comprise The Anathemata but also offering Jones an established pattern, a 'shape in words', for the composition of the work from those fragments.

The conclusion to my thesis reconciles the perception of a recognisable structure with Jones's statement that the work 'was not planned', by showing that the organisation of the eight fragments into a tripartite structure which contains and unifies the disparate parts is more plausible than existing explanations of the poem's structure. The tripartite structure proposed by my thesis has a significance that reinforces the theme of the poem, is derived from the same medieval sources as the content and demonstrates the fidelity of Jones's vision.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



medieval literature, The Anathemata, historiography, typology, numerology, David Jones

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Jun 2020 08:43

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 12:37



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