Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
A Discourse for the Holy Grail in Old French Romance

A Discourse for the Holy Grail in Old French Romance

Ben Ramm
Series: Gallica
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Discourse for the Holy Grail in Old French Romance
    Book Description:

    The Holy Grail made its first literary appearance in the work of the twelfth-century French poet, Chrétien de Troyes, and continues to fascinate authors and audiences alike. This study, supported by a theoretical framework based on the psychoanalytic works of Jacques Lacan and the cultural theory of Slavoj Zizek, aims to strip the legend of much of the mythological and folkloric association that it has acquired over the centuries, arguing that the Grail should be read as a symptom of disruption and obscurity rather than fulfilment and revelation. Focusing on two thirteenth-century Arthurian prose romances, ‘La Queste del Saint Graal’ and ‘Perlesvaus’, and drawing extensively on the wider field of Old French Grail literature including the works of Chrétien and Robert de Boron, the book examines the personal, social and textual effects produced by encounters with the Grail in order to suggest that the Grail itself is instrumental not only in creating but also in disturbing, the discursive, psychic and cultural bonds that are represented in this complex and captivating literary tradition. BEN RAMM is Research Fellow in French, St. Catharine's College, Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-534-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction Tant sainte chose: For a New Discourse of the Grail
    (pp. 1-30)

    The closing years of the twelfth century witness the emergence of a new discourse in European, and especially French, vernacular literature. In about 1181 Chrétien de Troyes’s final poetic work, known as the Conte du Graal or Perceval, introduces to the literary canon an object that, within that nascent discourse, comes to be known as the Grail or, later, the Holy Grail.²

    To deem the emergent discourse of the Grail an entirely autonomous phenomenon during this period would not be entirely accurate however; the new literary object that appears so suddenly and enigmatically in Chrétien’s poem grafts itself in a...

  6. 1 This is not the One: Identity, Abjection and méconnaissance in the Perlesvaus
    (pp. 31-61)

    In spite of uncertainties surrounding the precise date of composition, the thirteenth-century prose romance known in the modern edition as Le Haut Livre du Graal, or Perlesvaus, is unquestionably contemporary with a period during which, as Caroline Bynum has commented, ‘many different discourse communities […] were newly and explicitly concerned with the question of change’.² Moreover, the very concept of change itself ‘tended to change in the years around 1200’; the works of Aristotle, the keystone of medieval philosophy, were at that time in the process of being rediscovered, translated and enthusiastically glossed by commentators.³ The Philosopher’s discussions of the...

  7. 2 Falling out with God: The Discursive Inconsistency of La Queste del Saint Graal
    (pp. 62-89)

    Arriving at the castle Carcelois in the Scottish marches, the three companions destined to fulfil the Grail adventure in the Queste del Saint Graal (Galahad, Perceval and Bors) are warned by Perceval’s sister, at this point travelling incognito, that they face imminent danger, ‘por ce que len het çaienz le roi Artus plus que nul home’ [‘for here they loathe King Arthur more than any man’] (Q, 229:15–16). No sooner has she issued her caveat than the three companions are indeed challenged by the inhabitants of the castle, who engage them in a bout of intensive combat from which...

  8. 3 Remissio Peccatorum: Relocating the Sins of the Grail Hero
    (pp. 90-121)

    Shortly before visiting the Grail castle in Branch VIII of the Perlesvaus, Lancelot is urged by a hermit to confess his sins; the passage is closely echoed in the Queste, where Lancelot is exhorted to repent the sins that have been revealed in his abortive encounter with the Grail at the ruined chapel (P, 3647–95; Q, 65:6–67:9). This chapter will take these parallel episodes as the point of departure from which to explore the complex relationship between sin and the Grail in the medieval romances, and the consequences of this relationship for the Grail hero in these texts....

  9. 4 Dead to the World: Dreaming of Life and Death on the Quest of the Holy Grail
    (pp. 122-148)

    Perhaps the most renowned of Freud’s dream cases, and certainly that which has attracted the keenest attention from Freud’s own interpreters, is the ‘Dream of the Burning Child’.² For all the critical scrutiny that this dream, and the haunting rebuke of the eponymous child, ‘Father, can’t you see I’m burning?’, has received, there remains a certain mysterious obscurity to the case, and especially its unexplained origin: the dream is recounted at several removes and Freud admits that ‘its actual source is still unknown to me’.³ The image of a dead child lying on a bed surrounded by candles, watched over...

  10. Conclusion ‘Si avoit son tens trespassé’: The Final Sacrifice of the Grail Hero?
    (pp. 149-160)

    As I argued at the beginning of this investigation, the Lacanian theory of discourse is always problematized by its remainder, a remainder that lies both inside and outside the discourse structure, a remainder that is therefore undecidable and abject. One position in each of the four discourse mathemes set out in book 17 of Lacan’s Séminaire must be occupied by the a – the lack/excess, the abject leftover resisting integration into any totalized system such as that towards which the discourse theorem itself gestures. The problem of the remainder is further compounded at a meta-discursive level insofar as the very...

    (pp. 161-176)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 177-182)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-183)