Academic journal article Arthuriana

The Conte Du Graal Cycle: Chrétien De Troyes's Perceval, the Continuations, and French Arthurian Romance/Old French Narrative Cycle: Heroism between Ethics and Morality/The Continuations of Chrétien's Perceval: Content and Construction, Extension and Ending

Academic journal article Arthuriana

The Conte Du Graal Cycle: Chrétien De Troyes's Perceval, the Continuations, and French Arthurian Romance/Old French Narrative Cycle: Heroism between Ethics and Morality/The Continuations of Chrétien's Perceval: Content and Construction, Extension and Ending

Article excerpt

Thomas HINTON. The Conte du Graal Cycle: Chrétien de Troyes's Perceval, the Continuations, and French Arthurian Romance. Gallica 23. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2012. Pp. ix, 290. ISBN: 978-1-84384-285-9. $99.

LUKE Sunderland. Old French Narrative Cycle: Heroism between Ethics and Morality. Gallicai5. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2010. Pp. xiii, 204. isbn: 978-1-84384-220-0. $90.

leah tether. The Continuations of Chrétien's Perceval: Content and Construction, Extension and Ending. Arthurian Studies 79. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2012. Pp. ix, 256. isbn: 978-1-84384-31600. $95.

In addition to a shared focus on Old French chivalric narrative, these three releases from D.S. Brewer in the Gallica and Old French series have in common their positions as their authors' first published books of literary criticism. These volumes are concerned with core ideas in Old French literature-cyclicity, continuation, aesthetics, ethics, and the hero-and will be of potential interest for Arthuriana's readers as read-through volumes, broadly informing research notes and class lectures. Further, they will be an asset for personal and university library reference. Thomas Fdinton studies the development, authorship, and reception of Chrétien's unfinished Conte du Graal (Perceval) and its Continuations as a cycle. Luke Sunderland considers cyclic aesthetics and the formation of the hero in the contexts of four Old French narratives, and Leah Tether, like Fdinton, turns to the Perceval and its Continuations, but she examines the texts to demonstrate a theoretical model of continuation viewed as a genre.

Thomas Fdinton's study examines the place of the Perceval and its Continuations in the history and development of cyclicity and later Arthurian romance. Fdinton particularly interrogates the creation and reception of Chrétien's texts as a unified cycle, arguing for its place in the evolutionary development of Arthurian romance though the century that follows and even into the genesis of the modern novel in the seventeenth century, an idea that Matilda Tomaryn Bruckner suggests in her 'Introduction' to Chrétien Continued (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). Fdinton organizes his work into four chapters and a highly serviceable set of appendices. Fdis stated aims are first, to provide an understanding of'cyclic aesthetics' and 'narrative aesthetics' in the Conte and its Continuations and second, to determine how audiences and authors of Arthurian romance were 'invited' to respond to the corpus as they encountered it. Hinton's critical goals are complementary in that authorial response to the invitation to continue the narrative creates the resulting 'aesthetic' from opposing, hierarchical narrative dynamics. Narrative proliferation, or movement away from the source (as the 'centrifugal aesthetic'), is countered by recurrent harkening back to the principal hero's biography (as the 'centripetal aesthetic'), resulting in narrative tension and coherence.

Hinton addresses the ways in which Chrétien's Conte and the Continuations respond to existing theoretical parameters and result in a narrative that is ultimately coherent, despite its fragmented chronological development and multiple authors. Providing a clear and concrete presentation of criteria for 'cycle' and 'cyclicity' and how these work in specific instances, Hinton agues for an early 'aesthetic of cyclicity' that drives the evolution of romance and works to establish the place and value of the Conte and its Continuations as a cycle in that evolution. The designation may be problematic, however, in that Chrétien's Conte and its Continuations do not precisely fit the theoretical parameters, as Hinton acknowledges.

In his first chapter, Hinton explores the distinctions between the First Continuation and the Second and the latter's influence on those that follow. Biography, with Perceval's development foremost, and 'interlace,' that allows movement through the adventures of knights other than Perceval, are catalysts for the 'narrative aesthetic' that Hinton soon styles a 'textual aesthetic' (29 ff)- Lucid critical readings and insights about the second continuator's modes and lapses populate much of this chapter, and Hinton's argument that the Second Continuation creates the cyclicity of the Chrétien Conte corpus is insightful if not entirely convincing. …

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