Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

“Through blackening pools of blood”: Trauma and Translation in Robert Graves’s The Anger of Achilles

McKenzie, Laura

“Through blackening pools of blood”: Trauma and Translation in Robert Graves’s The Anger of Achilles Thumbnail



The Anger of Achilles, Robert Graves’ 1959 translation of Homer’s Iliad, has been variously dismissed by classical scholars as an ‘outrageous sortie into the field of translation’ (Aldrich 1961) and a work of ‘sheer egotism’ (Rexine 1962), marred by its author’s‘scattered yapping’ (Dimmock 1960). And yet, it can be read with greater understanding if we approach it not merely as a literary anomaly, but as a refraction of Graves’ experience of ‘Shell Shock,’ or PTSD, following his front line service during the First World War. This paper proposes that the act of translation can itself be cathartic, creating a formalized textual space in which the translation of traumatic memory into narrative memory becomes viable, and that Graves used Homer’s epic as a tool to access his own occluded, traumatic past. By comparing The Anger of Achilles to R. Lattimore’s relatively literal translation of the Iliad (1951), it will illuminate the ways in which the former is deeply rooted in Graves’s experience of combat, his ensuing neurasthenia, and the personal Myth by which he made sense of both – the matriarchal mythopoetics of The White Goddess (1948).


McKenzie, L. (2021). “Through blackening pools of blood”: Trauma and Translation in Robert Graves’s The Anger of Achilles. Journal of Medical Humanities, 42(2), 253-261.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Apr 30, 2020
Publication Date 2021-06
Deposit Date Jun 3, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jun 3, 2020
Journal Journal of Medical Humanities
Print ISSN 1041-3545
Electronic ISSN 1573-3645
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 42
Issue 2
Pages 253-261


Published Journal Article (Advance online version) (233 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Advance online version This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Downloadable Citations