Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Allen Tilley

Second Advisor

Dr. Gary Harmon

Third Advisor

Dr. Bill Slaughter


Tracing the influences and references to the Muses in written language from Ancient Greece through the end of the English Renaissance, I discover transformations and revivals in their usage. There are shifts from dependence on deified inspiration to the development of personal insight. Also, there appears to be a conscious substituting of the Muses with the beloved and Cupid or Apollo. But the Muses' religious significance returns in Paradise Lost.

The first part of this thesis focuses on the early Greek writers: Homer, Hesiod, Pindar, Plato, and the Latin writers: Ovid, Virgil, Boethius. The second part addresses the English poetic tradition from Chaucer through Milton. The poets cited for this section are Chaucer, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Donne, Marlowe and Milton.

Presentations of the Muses or a personally chosen muse during these literary periods display conceptions of what originally motivates literary creation. I cover both the epic and lyric poetic traditions.