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  • Chrétien Continued: A Study of the 'Conte du Graal' and its Verse Continuations
  • Keith Busby
Chrétien Continued: A Study of the 'Conte du Graal' and its Verse Continuations. By Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. xiii + 263 pp. Hb 61.00; $110.00.

The four continuations of Chrétien de Troyes's unfinished Perceval (Le Conte de Graal) have hovered on the edges of the Old French canon without ever having become staple reading, even for specialists in Arthurian romance. The unwieldy mass of redactions and variant versions has doubtless repelled scholars looking for something neat and tidy to write about. Although the dust jacket accurately proclaims that Chre´tien Continued is the first book devoted to all four continuations, the texts have not been without their champions. William Roach published magisterial editions of all except Gerbert de Montreuil (1965-83), there are monographs on the First Continuation by Guy Vial and on the Second by Corin Corley (both 1987), and Pierre Gallais produced an extraordinary four-volume study of the First Continuation (1988-89). But with these exceptions, most of the work on the continuations to date has been carried out in article form. Matilda Bruckner has herself published half a dozen pieces on these texts over the years, the substance of which is taken up and developed in the book under review. After an Introduction in which she lays out the aims and methods of her study, Bruckner's five central chapters deal, in order, with notions of authorship and authors' names, the love relationships between couples, the relationship between mothers and sons, the nature of violence in Arthurian society, and the shifts in narrative structure within the entire corpus of continuations. A Conclusion restates the aims and results of the study, while two appendices present in summary form, respectively, the episodes and divisions of the four continuations and a comparative ordering of the books of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. The book concludes with a bibliography and an index. This volume has many merits. To begin with, it takes the continuations seriously and follows the evolving and frequently diverging paths of narrative and meaning across the entire cycle of texts. The central part is full of perceptive and sensitive commentary on texts that are only just beginning to reveal their richness to those intrepid enough to approach them head on. The topics on which Bruckner has chosen to concentrate are important, and her conclusions have implications for the study of other romance texts of the same period. Not all scholars will agree, however, with the significance of the parallel drawn in Chapter 5 between the interpolation of Gerbert de Montreuil's Continuation (MSS T and V) and the editing of the Bible by early Jewish and Christian scholars. This seems to me something of a stretch, despite the influence of biblical models of reading in the Middle Ages. I would also argue that a distinction needs to be made between the principles of composition according to a poetics of continuation and the fragmentary manner in which the continuations were no doubt read and received by the users of the manuscripts in which they are preserved. If it seems churlish to criticize Matilda Bruckner's book for what it does not do, given its stated aims and scope, this is testimony both to the richness of the continuations themselves and to the possibilities that this study opens up for further research. [End Page 471]

Keith Busby
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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