Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Wisdom and the Grail: The Image of the Vessel in the 'Queste del Saint Graal' and Malory's 'Tale of the Sankgreall'

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Wisdom and the Grail: The Image of the Vessel in the 'Queste del Saint Graal' and Malory's 'Tale of the Sankgreall'

Article excerpt

Anne-Marie D'Arcy, Wisdom and the Grail: The Image of the Vessel in the 'Quests del Saint Graal' and Malory's 'Tale of the Sankgreall' (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000). 412 pp. ISBN 1-85182-496-0. L43.32/Eur. 5.00. It was the 'significantly unfinished' (Nigel Bryant) Conte du Graal of Chetien de Troyes which advanced the elusive 'grail' to the status of what has been variously termed a 'matrix of all possibilities' or 'panspermia replete with all things', as Anne-Marie D'Arcy notes in Wisdom and the Grail (p. 19). This ontological indeterminacy once prompted Jessie L. Western to speculate that, behind all the philosophical and religious theories surrounding its genesis and later development, the Grail represents a quest 'to discover what Life is, to reach, if possible, its ultimate and inexhaustible source' (cited by D'Arcy, p. 19 n. 3). However, with the development of the Lancelot-Grail cycle, partly generated under Cistercian influence, the flora and fauna of the enchanted wood of Broceliande were knotted into 'a forest of religious allegories' (J. D. Bruce, cited by D'Arcy, p. 171). Acknowledging the importance of these latter glosses, D'Arcy undertakes a large-scale excursion into the possible patristic, iconographic, and sapiential influences on the Queste del Saint Graal and its lay pendant, Malory's Morte Darthur. She defines her approach as 'a specific investigation of the grail as vessel' (p. 29) rather than the wider kind of literary-critical approach with which many readers will be more familiar. …

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