The 'Continuations' of Chrétien's 'Perceval'

The 'Continuations' of Chrétien's 'Perceval': Content and Construction, Extension and Ending

Leah Tether
Volume: 79
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The 'Continuations' of Chrétien's 'Perceval'
    Book Description:

    The notion of Continuation in medieval literature is a familiar one - but difficult to define precisely. Despite the existence of important texts which are commonly referred to as Continuations, such as ‘Le Roman de la Rose’, ‘Le Chevalier de la Charrette’ and, of course, the ‘Perceval Continuations’, the mechanics and processes involved in actually producing a Continuation have found themselves indistinguishable from those associated with other forms of medieval ‘réécriture’. The ‘Perceval Continuations’ (composed c.1200-1230) constitute a vast body of material which incorporates four separately authored Continuations, each of which seeks to further, in some way, the unfinished ‘Perceval’ of Chrétien de Troyes - though they are not merely responses to his work. Chronologically, they were composed one after the other, and the next in line picks up where the previous one left off; they thus respond intertextually to each other as well as to Chrétien, and only one actually furnishes the story as a whole with an ending. Here, these fascinating texts are used as a lens for examining, defining and distinguishing the whole concept of a Continuation; the author also employs theories as to what constitutes an "end" and what is "unfinished", alongside scrutiny of other medieval "ends" and Continuations. Dr Leah Tether is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Cultures of the Digital Economy Institute, Anglia Ruskin University.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-957-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. List of Abbreviations and MS SIGLA
    (pp. viii-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    Chrétien de Troyes left his fifth and final romance, the Conte du Graal,¹ unfinished, hanging mid-sentence, probably owing to his death. It is well known that his central object, the grail, went on to become one of the most enigmatic in all literature, and one which endures today. Chrétien’s story, as well as the many other medieval texts to adopt the grail theme,² have been endlessly examined and analysed as a result of their contribution to the transmission of the eternal motif, as well as their protracted influence on the literatures of both the medieval and modern worlds. Significantly, however,...

  6. 1 Authorial Changeovers in the Manuscripts
    (pp. 21-56)

    This chapter will take each manuscript in turn and discuss how it manages its Perceval-related contents in order to glean clues from the mise en page as to scribal perceptions and contemporary reader reception of the Continuations.¹ This will involve a detailed cataloguing of what features are perceptible specifically at the ‘traditional’² changeover points of the various Continuations: these include – judging from the disposition of divisions of texts in multi-text manuscripts – changes of hand, large (possibly illuminated/historiated/gilded/ornamented) capitals, explicits, rubrics, breaks in the text, new quires and headings, among various other possibilities.³ I will also consider the illumination/pictorial styles and/or...

  7. 2 Distinguishing Continuations, Sequels and Ends
    (pp. 57-108)

    In the most general sense, of course, everyone would understand the word ‘Continuation’. It implies, one would assume, an ‘unfinishedness’, or incompletion, in the initiating narrative: it may be that the ultimate fates of some of the protagonists are unknown, but intriguing; it may be that a narrative thread is left hanging; it may be that some objective set for the protagonists is unfulfilled; it may be that there are mysterious events which seem to want explanation. A ‘Continuation’, in other words, fulfils the audience’s, or the reader’s, expectations, and ensures that their curiosity is fully and perfectly satisfied. As...

  8. 3 The First Continuation and Prolongation
    (pp. 109-141)

    As was explained in the previous chapter, an Extension is a Continuation which extends the Ur-Text, but without providing an ‘end’. It was also noted that the First Continuation appears to be extending the story rather than concluding it, as the fact that the First Continuation gives rise to further Continuations would suggest a notion of unfinishedness. Indeed, Bruckner points out that the text clearly projects ‘the expectation that something else must follow’.¹ Given Herrnstein Smith’s notion of ‘the expectation of nothing’ as being crucial to a true ending, this means that the First Continuation may, at least as a...

  9. 4 The Second Continuation and the Imitative Mode
    (pp. 142-164)

    The First and second Continuations, as we saw in the Introduction, are widely divergent in terms of the impressions they give the reader as to their respective narrative strategies, or, as Grigsby puts it, the second Continuation‘exhibits a chiastic relationship to its predecessor’.¹ As such the second Continuation raises a set of questions very different from those raised by the First Continuation, owing to what Bruckner terms the ‘deference shown to Chrétien’s romance model’² by the Second Continuator in comparison with the ‘reinvention’³ of the first Continuator. This chapter, therefore, aims to approach the second Continuation by applying a similar...

  10. 5 The Gerbert and Manessier Continuations: Interpolation vs. Conclusion
    (pp. 165-189)

    This chapter proposes a rather differently constructed analysis of the two remaining Perceval Continuations from that which I have pursued in the previous two chapters, because these two Continuations, whose authors name themselves gerbert (generally held to be ‘de Montreuil’)¹ and Manessier,² together present the reader with a very different scenario in terms of Continuation. Gerbert and Manessier, it is now generally agreed,³ composed their Continuations at around the same time (c. 1225) and did so in ignorance of each other’s work: it seems that both authors may have intended ‘endings’ to the work – or to use the term now...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 190-202)

    This, the final chapter of this analysis, should, as we now know all ‘satisfactory ends’ must, refer back to the aims of the investigation as they were set out in the Introduction, and assess how far they have been achieved. The preceding chapters have constituted a journey through four texts, whose construction is extremely complex, with the aim that readers of those texts might better understand the ramifications of the one term that is applicable to all four: Continuation. The texts themselves had been relatively unexplored in comparison with other contemporary grail texts, and thus the intention of this analysis...

  12. Appendix I: Keys to The Tables
    (pp. 203-203)
  13. Appendix II: Table 1. Contents of the Manuscripts
    (pp. 204-205)
  14. Appendix III: Table 2. Changeovers shown by the Manuscript
    (pp. 206-207)
  15. Appendix IV: Listing of the Episodes in the Continuations
    (pp. 208-214)
  16. Appendix V: Plot summary of Chrétien’s Perceval
    (pp. 215-216)
  17. Appendix VI: Plot Summary of Section I, Episode 1–5: First Continuation
    (pp. 217-217)
  18. Appendix VII: Plot Summary of the First Continuation’s Carados Section
    (pp. 218-218)
  19. Appendix VIII: Transcription of the Independent Conclusion of the Second Continuation from MS K
    (pp. 219-220)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 221-234)
  21. Index
    (pp. 235-242)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 243-247)