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The Romances of Chrétien de Troyes

The Romances of Chrétien de Troyes

Joseph J. Duggan
Copyright Date: 2001
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    The Romances of Chrétien de Troyes
    Book Description:

    Twelfth-century French poet Chrétien de Troyes was one of the most influential figures in Western literature, for his romantic poems on the legend of King Arthur gave rise to a tradition of storytelling that continues to this day. This important and fascinating book is a study of all of Chrétien's work.Joseph J. Duggan begins with an introduction that sets Chrétien within the social and intellectual currents of his time. He then organizes the book in chapters that focus on major issues in Chrétien's romances rather than on individual works, topics that range from the importance of kinship and genealogy to standards of secular moral responsibility and from Chrétien's art of narration to his representation of knighthood. Duggan offers new perspectives on many of these themes: in a chapter on the influence of Celtic mythology, for example, he gives special attention to the ways Chrétien integrated portrayals of motivation with mythic themes and characters, and in discussing the Grail romance, he explores the parallels between Perceval's and Gauvain's adventures.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13370-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xi)
  4. List of Figures and Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  5. Chapter 1 Chrétien and His Milieu
    (pp. 1-46)

    The role of Chrétien de Troyes’s five romances in literary history is crucial. HisErec and Enideis, to our knowledge, the first Arthurian romance, whatever was the contribution to that tale of the professional storytellers that he refers to in his prologue. In fact, the only extended tales about King Arthur that survive from before Chrétien’s time are the eleventh-century Welsh prose storyCulhwch and Olwen, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Latin proseHistory of the Kings of Britain, Wace’s translation of Geoffrey’s work into French verse as theRoman de Brut, and possibly other such translations (on the latter, see...

  6. Chapter 2 Kinship and Marriage
    (pp. 47-92)

    Relations among kin bore an importance in Chrétien’s society that far outweighs the significance of all but the parent-child relationship in American and Western European societies. Not only were members of kinship groups considered responsible for one another’s actions, but political alliances often depended on the extension of such groups through arranged marriages. Understanding the ramifications of kinship and marriage in northern France in the second half of the twelfth century is essential for an appreciation of Chrétien’s romances.

    The organization of French society in the second half of the twelfth century is idealized as a threefold division: the nobility,...

  7. Chapter 3 Values
    (pp. 93-132)

    Although the kinship relations that are implicated in every facet of twelfth-century French social relations play essential roles in Chrétien’s romances, they provide only a map of the conduits through which values flow, of the intensity of values, and of the limits to which they extend. The values themselves provide the moral armature for the romances, and the progress of knights and ladies through the adventures of their lives is measured accordingly. Chrétien had little way of knowing, of course, what values obtained in the distant past when, he appears to have believed, Arthur lived, nor would it necessarily have...

  8. Chapter 4 Interiority and Responsibility
    (pp. 133-182)

    Chrétien was a writer with stories to tell. Part of his storytelling is to portray his characters as making decisions about choices they face. He depicts them not merely on the basis of external manifestations, such as their physical appearance and their words, but as creatures who think and who have an interior life. How he accomplished this is the subject of this chapter.

    The sense of the interior life, highly developed in St. Augustine, was not so much appreciated amid the strife and instability of the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries, but in the twelfth century there was a...

  9. [Plates]
    (pp. None)
  10. Chapter 5 Celtic Myth, Folklore, and Historical Tradition
    (pp. 183-270)

    Chrétien draws extensively upon myth, that is to say on narratives that have as their function to explain events of fundamental import such as natural phenomena or the foundation of social customs and entities. His works also contain mythic elements that he has refined on the basis of what he has received or even that he is himself elaborating. At the same time, Chrétien takes pains to present characters who have obviously played a mythic role in ways that integrate them into the everyday fabric of the world he has created, so that the distinction between their ordinary movements and...

  11. Chapter 6 The Art of the Storyteller
    (pp. 271-310)

    Chrétien de Troyes was a master storyteller. He was also an innovator, creating a literary tradition, the Arthurian romance, that rose to popularity with his works, was continued in prose form soon after his death, and has lasted to this day in a variety of national literatures. Two stories that he was the first to tell in any surviving version have been retold in constantly varying forms: the quest for the Grail and the love between Lancelot and Guinevere (see Elisabeth Brewer 1987; and Lacy and Ashe 1988: 151–221). His romances are read by the educated public young and...

  12. Chapter 7 Knights and Ladies
    (pp. 311-328)

    The romance is an idealizing genre, and Chrétien fashions ideal characters to inhabit the world he has created. By the period in which he lived, knighthood was well on its way to becoming an institution, its sources in the Germanic and Celtic client-retainer relationship and the war band long forgotten. Like Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace, Chrétien projects back onto the period reflected in Arthurian stories, the end of the fifth and beginning of the sixth century, the elements of his own twelfth-century civilization, with its courtly manners and codes of behavior, its tournaments and jousting, and its knightly customs....

  13. Notes
    (pp. 329-342)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 343-372)
  15. Index
    (pp. 373-390)