Research Articles

A Quest for ‘Feminine consciousness’ in John Cowper Powys’s 'Porius'

Author: Robin Wood (Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador)

  • A Quest for ‘Feminine consciousness’ in John Cowper Powys’s 'Porius'

    Research Articles

    A Quest for ‘Feminine consciousness’ in John Cowper Powys’s 'Porius'



John Cowper Powys’s last major novel Porius (1951) is a complex polyphonic narrative. However, its main concern is the spiritual growth of the eponymous protagonist. Porius matures through an increasing understanding of ‘feminine consciousness’, which Powys suggests is ‘deeper’than that of men and ‘contains a clue to the most basic understanding of reality’.  The novel is set in Wales in AD 499, just prior to the end of the Roman occupation, with a Saxon invasion impending. Powys began writing Porius in 1942, when Britain again faced an invasion,and he sees the twentieth century as a second Dark Age with Christianity being replaced by the worship of science and materialism, and Hitler’s Germany reflecting this trend in the extreme. Porius explores the idea that idea that evil originates from ‘some obscure struggle between men and women’ and Powys suggests that a bias toward ‘masculine consciousness’ leads to war, sadism, and violence.  The patriarchal aspects of Christianity are condemned by Powys, and he prophesises its replacement with the worship of the Mother Goddess. Mythology is a major element and the characters include King Arthur’s magician Myrddin (Merlin), his lover Nineue, Tennyson’s Vivien, and survivors of a race of giants. Powys’s ideas about ‘feminine consciousness’,were particularly influenced by C. G. Jung, various women in his life, and the novelist Dorothy Richardson, who represents for him an ideal of this consciousness.

Keywords: Historical novel, Wales, Mythology, Feminism, Dorothy Richardson, C G Jung, John Cowper Powys

How to Cite:

Wood, R., (2022) “A Quest for ‘Feminine consciousness’ in John Cowper Powys’s 'Porius'”, International Journal of Welsh Writing in English 9(1). doi:

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Published on
28 Sep 2022
Peer Reviewed