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La Queste del Saint Graal as Chivalric Antiromance La Queste del Saint Graal, the penultimate branch of the Lancelot-Grail Cycle of Arthurian romances, has been extensively studied both as a discrete work of art and as a part of the cycle. T w o seminal critical studies, published within five years of each other and both in a sense reactions to H. Oskar Sommer's monumental edition of the Vulgate Cycle of Arthurian Romances} can now be seen to have laid down the lines that subsequent scholarship followed. In his Etude sur le Lancelot en prose, Ferdinand Lot set out to establish that the cycle not only possesses unity and cohesion but was indeed the work of one author. Lot's study was broad-ranging and surveyed the whole cycle. By contrast, Albert Pauphilet's Etudes sur la Queste del Saint Graal provided what seemed at the time an exhaustive account of the textual history, composition, literary character, doctrines, and sources of a single text.3 Whatever his ultimate views on the cycle as a whole,4 in practice he treated the Queste as a self-contained entity, and many later studies have done likewise. Lot's bold thesis, with its claim for order where hitherto only disorder had been perceived, stimulated much lively debate, which it is not necessary to trace here. What is of concern is the common ground that has emerged from it. Although no one has followed Lot in his belief that the Lancelot, the Queste and l The Vulgate Cycle of Arthurian Romances, ed. H. O. Sommer, 8 vols, Washington, 1908-16: vol.1, Estoire del Saint Graal, 1909; vol.2 Estoire de Merlin, 1908; vol.3, 1910; vol.4, 1911; vol.5, Lancelot del Lac, 1912; vol.6, La Queste del Saint Graal, La Mort le Roi Artu, 1913; vol.7, Livre d'Artus, 1913; vol.8. Index, 1916. Of these the Lancelot, the Questesnd the Mort Artu are now regarded as having belonged to the original scheme of the cycle, which I shall refer to by the now-preferred title, the Lancelot-Grail Cycle. Sommer's edition of the principal branches has largely been superseded: La Queste del Saint Graal, ed. A. Pauphilet, C F M A , Paris, 1923; La Mort le Roi Artu, ed. J. Frappier, TLF, 3rd edn., Paris and Geneva, 1964; Lancelot, roman en prose du Be siicle, ed. A. Micha, TLF, 8 vols, 1978-1980; Merlin, roman du xiiieme siecle, Paris and Geneva, 1979. I shall refer the Queste as Q when citing it. 2 Paris, 1918; enlarged, 1954. 3 Paris, 1923. Etudes sur la Queste del Saint Graal does not state a position on the question, though it implies one by its exclusion of all discussion of the topic. Previously, in a long review of Lot's book in Romania 45, 1919, 214-234, Pauphilet had methodically shown the absurdities and inconsistencies of Lot's unitarian thesis, but had not offered an account of the Lancelot-Grail Cycle as we now have it. For this we must turn to his posthumously-published Le Legs du moyen age, Paris, 1950, 121-17, in which he allows that the grouping is deliberate but tends to see the Queste as pivotal. 5 For an account of the debate, see m y Malory's Quest of the Holy Grail; A Study in Changing Chivalric Values, Ph.D. diss., Sydney, 1978, 27-35. Le Queste del Saint Graal 55 La Morte le Roi Artu were written by one author, it is now widely accepted that the cycle possesses a structure that is the result of deliberate and purposeful artistic endeavour. Inevitably the cohesiveness of the structure of so vast a work as the Lancelot-Grail must be looser than that of even the longest novels. The cycle's structural coherence derives from a network of prefigurings and correspondences, of prophecies and backward references. One or two salient examples will illustrate the nature of these interconnections. The Agravain section of the Prose Lancelot, which has rightly been called the preparation for the Quest, relates an episode in which Lancelot held prisoner in a large room by Morgan le Fee, consoles himself by painting...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1832-8334
Print ISSN
0313-6221
Pages
pp. 54-70
Launched on MUSE
2013-04-03
Open Access
No
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