Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English (PhD)

Degree Level





Joshua Byron Smith

Committee Member

Mary Beth Long

Second Committee Member

William Quinn


Britain, Brutus, Corineus, Historiography, Myth, Trojan


The Medieval British Legacy of the Founding Myth of Britain” examines the historiographical development of the founding myth of Britain between the 9th and 14th centuries. This study begins with an overview of the Latin, Anglo-Norman French, Middle English, and Middle Welsh texts that transmit this founding myth across medieval Britain. The stylistic features and the motivations of the authors who are adapting this myth are addressed but the main objective of this overview is to introduce the texts in question and to start establishing the intertextual relationships between these works. The textual examination of the historiographical development of the founding myth focuses on how the figures of Brutus and Corineus are manipulated within the narrative and to what effect. This analysis starts with Brutus who becomes the eponymous founder of Britain and attention is given to Brutus’s legendary ancestry which is revised to give him a more prominent and legitimate position on the world stage. From here, the circumstances surrounding Brutus’s conception, the prophecy of his life, his act of patricide, and subsequent exile from Italy are discussed to reveal how Brutus’s legacy is gradually diminished over time by altering narrative details and omitting information. The conditions surrounding Brutus’s rise to power and his motivations for joining the Trojan cause are the next topics of concern before attention shifts to his martial exploits, the prophecy that he receives from the goddess Diana, and the scarcity of details concerning Brutus’s reign as the first king of Britain. An examination of Corineus and the role he plays in the founding myth of Britain follows starting with his introduction to the narrative and the nature of his relationship with Brutus. Corineus’s martial exploits and his wrestling match with the giant Goemagog as are also addressed along with the circumstances surrounding the founding of Cornwall. Ultimately, this dissertation provides new insights into the transmission and development of the founding myth of Britain and the intertextual relationships of the works that preserve and perpetuate this myth. These insights are the product of studying how the narratives surrounding the figures of Brutus and Corineus are manipulated by later adaptors and how the legacies of these men are used to shape the founding and construction of Britain.