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In medieval romances, non-elect knights also provide certain models, which the original readers could repudiate or sympathise with, because not everyone could expect to reach Sir Galahad’s level of perfection, albeit, as a Christian, everyone was called to aspire to this ideal.Indeed, medieval non-elect knights and minor characters can provide a foil to the elect questers and major characters at the same time as nuancing their the « Sankgreal », the questers’ achievement constitutes a kind of redemption of chivalry, despite the fact that the earthly Round Table fellowship is destroyed in the succeeding narratives – the French , Persse Mac Garrigle « saves » the discipline of literary criticism from the aridity and stagnation that would overtake it if a single literary theory triumphed, and, as I show in Chapter 6, Lodge’s academic novel presents, in microcosm, the more general concerns of modern society.Meanwhile, in both medieval romances and modern novels considered in Chapters 5-7, the quest is aimed at the redemption of a particular group, if not of all mankind.
The Introduction to the thesis tackles the question of why modern society needs the Grail quest, a motif routed in medieval culture that had a very different set of values.
The aim of the chapter is to outline the role of medievalism in modern culture and the place of Arthuriana and the Grail quest within it.
Studies of the Grail quest that mention both medieval and modern texts usually concentrate on one period 6.
Thus, the thesis contributes to the study of medieval and modern Grail quest literary traditions in English and French.
The corpus of texts encompasses medieval French and English Arthurian romances on the one hand – the anonymous Comparing two sets of texts originating in different historical contexts advances our understanding of each text, because not only are the modern texts influenced by their medieval precursors, but also our perception of medieval Grail quest romances is modified by modern literature.
Moreover, studying medieval and modern Grail quest literature side by side offers new insights into the phenomenon of modern medievalism ; this approach brings out the differences between the Grail quest in texts composed in a society that shared a set of Christian values and those produced in a post-religious context.Michel Zink’s protagonist, Déodat, in the eponymous novel not only realizes that spiritual transparency and charity can bring the individual closer to God, but also tries to share his revelation with the people he meets, Yvain the Knight of the Lion and the girl at the well.In a sense, modern questers, like Galahad, strive and occasionally succeed in « redeeming » the modern post-religious world from the loss of meaning associated with the denial of belief in spiritual reality.The thesis explores the representation and meaning of the Grail quest in medieval and modern literature, using the methodologies of historically informed criticism and gender criticism.It opens new perspectives on the Grail quest, regarding the quest as a unifying structural and moral motif that enables medieval and modern authors to engage with core existential issues – death, gender relations and history – in a unique way, influenced by the socio-historical context in which the texts were written.Finally, the organisation of the book and its thematic arrangement are explained. The ideology of medieval chivalry is an extensive field, so only two authors are discussed in the chapter : St Benedict, whose vision of spiritual chivalry is essential for reading the , and Ramon Lull, whose works are important for the discussion of Malory’s representation of chivalry in the « Sankgreal ».Next, I examine the material expression of chivalric ideas, namely, the manuscript and early printed book tradition in which the I also argue that the episodes of medieval romances examined in Chapters 2-4 are essential in the development of the plot and in the main characters’ quest, which is confirmed by the manuscripts’ and early printed books’ illustrative programmes.In Chapter 3, I study two episodes in which Sir Lancelot and Sir Perceval spend time with female recluses, who give the knights spiritual advice.These recluses are quite unique, because knights are more usually instructed by hermits in both the and the « Sankgreal », as well as in other chivalric romances.After the quest is achieved, Galahad leaves this world, followed by Perceval, but their deaths are peaceful, in difference from the violent deaths of non-elect knights.Chapter 2 demonstrates how the non-elect knights’ deaths compare to the deaths of Sir Galahad and Sir Perceval, arguing that the deaths of the non-elect and the elect knights are exemplary of contemporary ideas and practices associated with death and dying – the composition of wills, performance of the last rights and funeral practices.