Academic journal article German Quarterly

Diu Crone and the Medieval Arthurian Cycle

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Diu Crone and the Medieval Arthurian Cycle

Article excerpt

Thomas, Neil. Diu Crone and the Medieval Arthurian Cycle. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2002. 152pp. $60.00 hardcover.

It is very heartening to see what has largely been regarded as an enigmatic and unwieldysome have actually employed the epithet "monster"-work addressed in such a manageable volume. And, indeed, the prose is equally compact in this work, which comprises six nicely balanced chapters, an appendix of analogue summaries, and a brief introduction culminating in a tabular thematic outline. Neil Thomas, an experienced reader of Diu Crone, delivers a highly readable and at times elegant defense of the artistry of a medieval author whose work many have opted to read only in summary. His achievement is all the more remarkable when one considers that studies of this work to date have focused primarily on its analogy with a single source or, at most, the canon of one vernacular. Thomas brings his knowledge of medieval French, German, English and Latin texts to bear in his analysis, as much a testimony to Heinrich's learnedness as to his own.

Against the widely held belief that Heinrich von dem Turlin's romance is merely a collage of existing Arthurian narratives, Thomas argues quite forcefully that Heinrich, as well-versed as any of his contemporaries in the European Arthurian canon, drew quite deliberately upon these narratives in an effort to re-contextualize them. In doing so, he succeeded in lending them a new sense, effectively re-writing the Arthurian tradition. Heinrich's sole protagonist is no less than Gawein, that prototype of the Arthurian knight who frequently appears in other works as the nearly flawless counterpart to a less developed hero-in-training. In Diu Crone, Gawein's grail quest is posited as the means to his own redemption for an ignoble murder committed by him, which is alluded to or even dismissed in some sources, but never fully resolved. This need for rehabilitation makes Gawein's quest for the grail purposeful on two fronts, since the redemption of Arthur and his morally unstable court also hang in the balance. Thus the fate of Gawein is tied directly to that of the Arthurian court, indeed Camelot itself, forcing upon Gawein the role of secular savior of a community and legacy threatened by individual corruption and internecine strife. …

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