‘Literary’ monuments to national heroes (1830s-1870s)
: literature, cultural memory and the making of Greek national identity

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis traces the cultural foundations of Greek national identity in the construction of a commemorative culture based on the monumentalisation of national heroes and heroines, who rose to prominence during the last years of Ottoman rule and the Greek War of Independence (1821-1829). I argue that the body of literature produced in the first four decades of the Greek nation-state (1830s-1870s) functioned as a ‘memorial medium’ that contributed to the commemoration of the founding ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ of the Greek nation-state. Addressing the nexus of three strands – nationalism, cultural memory and literature – it focuses on a corpus of selected literary texts (poetry, prose fiction, and drama), and explores three mnemonic processes involved in the commemoration of their heroic protagonists. The first refers to the remediation of Greek language predominanty oral or supposed oral, sources within the selected texts. Textuality saves these memories from the oblivion, and solidifies them into the national memory by inserting them in the ‘floating gap’. The concept of ‘travelling memory’ is deployed to analyse the second process: the remediation of foreign, mainly written, sources in the selected texts that permits memories to ‘travel’ from Europe to Greece. The third process refers to the dissemination of heroic memories produced within selected commemorative texts through ‘memorial media’ other than literature; this process permitted the memories in question to ‘travel’ across time through ‘plurimedia networks’ that impacted broader audiences. Reconfigurations of memory involved in this progression of memory permitted the domestication of two previously contested figures, Phrosyne Vasileiou (1773-1801) and Gregory V, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (1746-1821). I propose that these mnemonic processes are assisted by the function of a literary device, textual imagery. Drawing on imagines agentes, a memory technique deployed by Ancient Greek and Roman orators, textual imagery enabled Romantic authors to produce gendered heroic memories. I conclude that the re-shaping, silencing and even the re-imagining of the past actualised through the above-mentioned mnemonic processes and textual imagery allowed the authors of the selected texts to produce national memory by ‘anchoring’ it from pre-existing materials and the memories that they carried.
Date of Award1 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorRoderick Beaton (Supervisor), David Ricks (Supervisor) & Gonda Van Steen (Supervisor)

Cite this