Printer Friendly

Criminal naivety: blind resistance and the pain of knowing in Chretien de Troyes's Conte du Graal.


Chretien de Troyes's Conte du Graal recounts the tale of Perceval, an atypical hero divided between maternal spiritual education and paternal chivalric law. Perceval commits an initial crime, whose nature he does not understand, and which he therefore must continually repeat. This crime, founded on indifference to suffering, signals a naievety that may be traced back to his first encounter with knightly culture. At this moment, paternal law eclipses maternal religious teaching and the recognition of Christic agony that it implies. The article examines the destructive nature of this indifference as well as its intimate connection to Perceval's distorted view of chivalric glory as omnipotent and invulnerable, a fascination that blinds him to pain.


Written between 1181 and 1185 for Chretien's patron, Philippe d'Alsace, Count of Flanders, Le Conte du Graal is Chretien de Troyes's final and most enigmatic work. (1) In common with other heroes in Chretien's works, Perceval makes an initial mistake, the repercussions of which will shape the rest of the story. The Conte unfolds as a story of crime and punishment, quite complex in structure since the full extent of the crime committed will be revealed only at the end. Perceval is not a typical hero, however. Neither worldly nor learned, he displays in his behaviour early in the story that not only is he socially inept, but he is also unable to learn.

Perceval's complete lack of social skills is a result of the strange education his mother gave him. She has instructed him on the values central to the Christian tradition, but at the same time has kept him in complete ignorance of all chivalric tradition. Perceval's naivety towards the culture of chivalry will quickly change into fascination as his ignorance is disrupted by a chance meeting with a group of knights whom he believes to be angels led by a single godlike figure. He resolves to leave his mother in order to pursue knighthood. Perceval's departure marks the space of his refusal to learn the lessons of his mother, a resistance that will call into question the very nature and foundation of her teaching. The mother places religion at the centre of her teachings so that it may take the place of another and actively repressed knowledge: the knowledge of a deadly chivalric glory. Although Perceval will show that he is sensitized to the existence of this repressed knowledge in his active refusal to let his mother speak, his resistance to it will consign him to a ceaseless repetition of his initial error.

Perceval's journey leads him to the castle of the Fisher King, a place that will be transformed for him into the site of a trial in both senses of the term. Unbeknown to him, Perceval will be subjected to an epreuve, a test, which he will fail and for which he will be punished for the remainder of the narrative. Although the Fisher King's castle stands in the midst of a terre gaste, a devastated land, the king graciously welcomes Perceval, whom he invites to dine with him. During the dinner Perceval sees passing in front of him a servant carrying a lance that is bleeding from its point followed by two others carrying candleholders, then by two girls, one carrying a grail and the other a silver platter. The procession enters from one room, passes in front of them, and disappears into another room.

This enigmatic scene has obvious Christian connotations and less obvious Jewish ones which David Berdah and Eugene Weinraub have pointed out. (2) As to the Christian connotations, the bleeding lance serves as a reminder of the Lance of Longinus, the Roman centurion who pierced the side of Christ before converting to Christianity and dying a martyr. The lance evokes the agony of Christ, the shedding of his blood to redeem the sins of humanity. It is also a figure of mourning since it seems to 'cry' tears of blood. As for the grail, it is clearly marked as an enigmatic object:

Even the etymology of the word is mysterious. The word graal could derive from the word cratale, which is a mix between the words for 'vase' (crater) and 'receptacle for salt water' (garale). (3) Or it could come from gradale meaning 'liturgical book', or from cratis, which is a rack for storing food. The word graal could even mean simply 'that which serves' or 'that which pleases', as in the Roman de l'Estoire dou graal of Robert de Boron:

Charles Mela notes that the grail seems to have been originally 'a platter for the serving of food'. (5) While later texts will explicitly link the grail to the lance by claiming that the grail is the vessel in which the blood of Christ on the cross was collected, (6) no such explicit conjunction is made in Chretien's text. We will, however, later learn that the grail carries a single communion wafer which is served to the father of the Fisher King, providing him with his only sustenance. Clearly, the blood of the lance and the host brought by the grail reflect the Christian rite of communion.

The scene also alludes to Jewish tradition, which may be less surprising if we remember that Troyes was the home of the rabbinical academy founded by a well-known talmudic and biblical commentator, Rashi. It may be assumed that Chretien de Troyes was at least partially familiar with Jewish ritual. Weinraub has noted the similarity between the scene of the grail and the Jewish rite of Passover, which commemorates the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, marking their emancipation from slavery. Each detail of the Seder, the meal that takes place on the first night of Passover, is meant to recall the suffering endured by their ancestors. There are several details that point to the similarity between the scene at the grail castle and the ceremony of the Seder. (7) First, during the Seder one is to lean on one's elbow as a symbol of freedom. As Robert Nerson states, various religious texts of the twelfth century describe this gesture--one drinks wine and eats unleavened break while reclining as a free man:

Le soir du Sedere tous les israelites sont allonges, meme le plus pauvre en Israel ne doit manger autrement qu'accoude (Pessa' him, X, 1): Tous doivent se sentir des hommes libres en celebrant la delivrance de nos ancetres de l'esclavage d' Egypte. (8)

The evening of the Seder, every Israelite reclines, even the poorest in Israel must only eat leaning on his elbow: all must feel like free men celebrating the deliverance of our ancestors from slavery in Egypt.

Illustrations of figures in reclining positions may be found in illuminated medieval manuscripts.(9) The reclining guests serve as one in a sequence of elements meant to emphasize that this night is different:

On all other nights, we may eat all kinds of vegetables; tonight we must eat bitter herbs. On all other nights, we are not required to dip even once; tonight we are required to dip twice. On all other nights, we may eat either sitting or reclining; tonight we must all recline. (10)

When Perceval enters the castle, he finds the Fisher King reclining on his elbow:

Although this posture might be attributed to his infirmity, it also takes on the Jewish connotation of liberation. Since the king's infirmity connotes sin, which Christianity repeatedly assimilates to a form of bondage, his reclining posture suggests that the notion of liberation from sin might be in play here.

Second, and more importantly, within the tradition of Passover questions must be posed. In the Seder of Sephardic communities at the very beginning of the ceremony the head of the family will ask the youngest person present a number of preparatory questions meant to focus attention on the significance of the Exodus. In this dialogue between officiant and youngest present, the child enters the room playing the role of a traveller. As the child arrives, the elder asks, 'Where did you come from?' The child answers, 'Egypt!' The elder then asks, 'Where are you going?', followed by the child's answer 'To Jerusalem!' (11) Similarly, as Perceval enters the Grail Castle and sits down next to his host, he is asked a series of questions:

This set of questions which opens the scene of Perceval's dinner with the Fisher King, provides a further link between the scene and the rite of Passover. Just as in the Seder, the questions posed to Perceval are an indication, an announcement of a significant event yet to be introduced. At the Seder, the story of the Exodus follows. In the scene at the Grail Castle, the procession of the grail and the bleeding lance follow, an event also directly related to notions of liberation, as we realize when we remember that Perceval's failure to ask questions will cost the king his freedom from suffering and disempowerment. It might also be added that these opening questions call further attention to Perceval's eventual inability to pose questions of his own. From the beginning of this scene we see that what is most at stake, namely issues of suffering and liberation, will be expressed through a precise mode of communication, i.e. interrogation. Already, at the start of this scene, our attention is drawn to the centrality of the asking of questions.

In the Passover ritual, before the head of the family narrates the story of the Exodus, the youngest member is expected to ask questions related to the ceremony. In order to ignite his curiosity and to elicit questions from him, the Seder plate is taken away from the table. He is then expected to enquire about certain aspects of the meal (Why is this bread unleavened? Why do we recline? Why do we dip the bitter herbs twice?) and finally to ask why this night is different. The story of liberation and deliverance from bondage can then be delivered. As the plate is replaced, the head of the family begins to explain.

Perceval has also been invited to a dinner where he occupies the position of the youngest, not only because of his age but also because of his childlike naivety. As he eats with the Fisher King, he witnesses a withdrawal similar to that experienced in the Seder. As the plate of the Seder is removed, so is this other plate, the grail, repeatedly presented and withdrawn. The grail keeps passing in front of Perceval and his host to be carried into another room. The movement of the grail is as enigmatic as the removal of the Seder plate and should, like it, prompt a question. Not, however, 'What is different about this night?' but 'Who is being served by the grail?' Indeed, both the grail and the bleeding lance are enigmatic objects designed to elicit questions.

Perceval does ask himself a set of questions about the bleeding lance and the grail, but resolves to delay his questioning until the next morning. His postponement of the questions is all the more striking since he showed no such restraint in the scene where he meets a group of knights for the first time. He is certainly awestruck by the knights, but this does not silence him. He keeps questioning them about the various pieces of their armour while himself refusing to respond to their questions. His obstinate questioning and his resistance to being questioned are interpreted as a sign of his sauvagerie and naivete, as ignorance of good manners. It is important to note that in this scene Perceval asks first about the lance that a knight, who looks to him like God himself, carries: that is, he asks the precise question that he refrains from asking at the castle. Perceval will soon discover, however, that his postponement of the question constitutes a crime.

As soon as he leaves the castle, he begins to take the position of the accused. He, who refused the position of the questioned, is now put to the question by a young woman whom he learns to be his cousin. This scene closely mirrors that of a courtroom since she clearly already knows the answers to the questions that she poses. She begins her interrogation by asking him if he saw a bleeding lance. She then questions him about the grail and where the procession was going. Perceval admits to having seen this display without enquiring as to its function. This interrogation is meant to force him to confess his silence and to condemn it as a crime. She tells Perceval that if he had asked the king about the procession, this would have restored the Fisher King to health and re-established the integrity of his kingdom. He would have 'liberated' both king and kingdom from the devastation that plague them.

The notion of a question that restores the king's power, both physical and political, amplifies a previous tradition in which the question does not so much restore as establish or confirm power. Thus The Phantom's Frenzy, an eleventh-century Irish text, recounts the story of the King of Ireland who visits the mysterious dwelling of the god Lug. When the king arrives before the god in order to learn of the princes who will follow him as rulers of Ireland, he first sees a seated girl, wearing a golden crown and with a golden cup placed before her. The god appears to the king, conveying the prophecy that the latter has come to hear. As the girl enters to serve their visitor, she asks, 'To whom should the cup be given?' The god answers that the king before him should receive the cup, a gesture that arms the sovereignty of the king. This Irish text has much in common with Le Conte du Graal in that there is a direct link between the act of posing questions and the confirmation of power. (12)

Perceval thus learns retroactively about the liberation and restorative function of the question that he was meant to ask. It is essential for a modern reader to appreciate the sacred nature of the question asked. It is this element, the restorative question, that makes Chretien's most spiritual story a unique one to modern ears. Running counter to the modern emphasis on the ability to respond appropriately to a question, it highlights the disastrous consequences when a hero fails to ask the questions he was meant to ask. Accused and cursed, Perceval vows to measure himself against any knight until he knows the truth about the grail and the lance. This mode of redemption will turn out to be a misunderstanding of the nature of the crime that he committed.

Why did Perceval fail to ask the question? The text gives us an explicit answer. Before his visit to the castle of the Fisher King, Perceval meets Gornemant, who teaches him how to fight and speak as a knight. It is a sin, he says, for a knight to speak too much:

It is because he remembers Gornemant's advice that Perceval remains mute in front of the king:

Paradoxically, then, Perceval commits a sin, the sin of silence, because he is afraid of committing a sin. He unknowingly breaks the religious law of the castle precisely because he is upholding another law: the law of chivalry. Religious law requires that one question--that is, that one should want to know; chivalric law requires that one remain mute and not exhibit the desire to know.

The dilemma can be reformulated in terms of vision. Critics such as Jean Frappier and Charles Mela have noticed that Perceval both sees and does not see. (13) As a young knight fascinated by the glory of weapons, he is intrigued by the bleeding lance and the brilliance of the grail. The reverse side of this fascination is blindness. Although the holy objects point to a pain and suffering which must be acknowledged, Perceval is blind to the suffering that they signify as he is blind to the pain of the king. This introduces a new aspect of Perceval's crime: he does not ask the question because he does not want to know about pain (and impotence). And if he does not want to know about pain, it is because he is fascinated by a certain vision of the chivalric body as unwoundable, as omnipotent. His fascination with the glory of knighthood seems to be based on criminal ignorance and denial of pain, wounding, and impotence.

When Perceval later declares his intention to seek the meaning of the grail by delving into chivalric adventures, we should already suspect that he is doomed to fail because he is attempting, by means of chivalry, to redeem himself from a crime which seems to have been caused by his blindness to pain, a blindness that the chivalric fascination for glory seems to induce. Not only does his chivalric wandering not redeem him from his crime, it aggravates it. After a five-year wandering period (which the text does not describe), Perceval reappears but has lost his memory and all sense of time:

When he is asked on Good Friday, 'Don't you know what day it is?', Perceval has not even the slightest notion of the day, the hour, or even the season. He has also forgotten God since he has never set foot in a church.

Despite his most concerted efforts, his chivalric attempt at redemption turns out in no way to mitigate his crime. Suddenly realizing what he has done, Perceval goes on to confess his sins to a hermit, and to ask him forgiveness for that which he has failed to do, i.e. for not having asked forgiveness. The hermit, however, derails Perceval's confession, telling him that he must ask forgiveness for what he did do. In order to become a knight, to enter the masculine world of prowess, Perceval has to leave his mother, who eventually dies of grief. The one offence that Perceval fails to mention, the hermit reveals, is the sin of matricide:

For this crime he was punished by not having the ability to ask the sacred question that he was meant to ask. It is not the first time that the crime of silence is linked to the crime of matricide. Earlier the Demoiselle Hideuse, another of Perceval's accusers, had already mentioned the mother's death and Perceval's silence:

The hermit's formulation is, however, much stronger. He states that the crime of matricide cut off his tongue:

We learn, at the end of the story, that what we believed to be a crime, the crime of silence, was in effect already a punishment from a previous, and as it were original, sin: the crime of matricide. But why should the killing of the mother be punished by muteness? By the inability to ask a question? It is important to note that the literal killing of the mother is also linked to a metaphorical killing. Perceval kills his mother metaphorically by forgetting her and by erasing/muting her voice.

Fearful of her son's future as a knight, Perceval's mother recounts with horror the events that led to the deaths of Perceval's father and brothers. While Perceval perceives the knights he meets to be unwoundable, the mother proclaims the inevitability of their deaths in order to dissuade him from following their example. Perceval, however, hardly pays any attention to his mother's words. As she tells of their family history, he cuts off her words with a demand to be fed his dinner:

Perceval turns away from the mother's recounting of his family history. Jean-Charles Huchet refers to this moment of refusal as 'une faim de non-savoir'. (15) By this observation Huchet remarks on Perceval's desire to remain at the level of the oral. This holding pattern that necessarily involves a refusal to know the story of his father's demise is inextricably linked to a specific bond that binds his mother to him. Perceval's mother tells him that he is her only remaining joy and consolation.

Replete with his own desire not to know about the suffering of his mother and family, Perceval rides away from his mother's voice but cannot free himself from her words, from the story he is afraid to know. The one who refuses to know seems indeed condemned to repeat that which he refuses to know. Such a repetition occurs first in the confrontation between Perceval and the Chevalier Vermeil:

The scene in which Perceval kills the Chevalier Vermeil recalls the scene in which Perceval's father is wounded and dies. The knight is killed with a spear and his fatal wound is located in the eye, a fate which recalls the demise of Perceval's older brother, whose eyes were gouged out. The father, himself wounded in battle, dies as he mourns his son's death.

The Fisher King also marks a return of the muted, dead father. Critics have noted the proximity between the two figures. The Fisher King's infirmity replicates the wound of the father, the king having been maimed in the same manner:

The Fisher King sustains a similar injury in battle to that suffered by Perceval's father. The presence of the father, plaintive in its silence, reasserts itself in the form of the Fisher King and the wound he carries. Perceval could liberate the Fisher King from his suffering if only he asked the meaning of the enigmatic signs that pass in front of him: the grail, the bleeding lance, the candles. Perceval, however, is too 'simple' to ask their meaning--too intent on delivering himself through an active forgetting of his father's death. His 'simplicity', this criminal naivety, proceeds from a resistance to knowledge which cripples him by blinding him not only to pain but also to the urgency of pain. Although Perceval wonders to himself about the scene he witnesses, he decides to delay his questioning until the following morning. The signs of pain do not manage to evoke in him a pressing enough question as to the pain they signify. The signs of the Christic agony which should remind him of his father's suffering function instead as a reminder to forget this suffering yet again.

Freud addresses the subject of repetition and its relation to remembering. The patient will act out that which he cannot, or chooses not to, remember. The only way of remembering is the compulsion to repeat. (17) But how could it be said that Perceval might remember the story of his father's death when he has not 'lived' it? This question may be addressed in the scene of Perceval's encounter with the group of knights. The curiously intense persistence with which he questions them betrays a certain awareness concerning the censorship his mother has imposed on chivalry. Perceval knows, however dimly, that the religious knowledge that his mother wishes him to focus on is erected out of a suppressed knowledge that he is here trying to uncover. His curiosity about chivalry is zealous, as is his mother's desire to prohibit any knowledge of it. Perceval pursues a knowledge of chivalry because of his mother's muted prohibition, evident in the very wording of his admiration of the knights. He declares that the knights he encountered are more beautiful than God, a declaration that strikes fear into his mother. She nearly collapses when she hears that the beauty that her son calls more glorious than that of angels is in fact the beauty of the knights. The fact that Perceval should choose to express his fascination for the knights in religious terms confirms that he knows, however dimly, that his mother has transferred onto God the very brilliance of the forbidden chivalry, that the religious brilliance was supposed to erase the deadly chivalric glow. Perceval's understanding that his mother's religious teaching comes from a suppressed knowledge cannot be said to occupy conscious thought, but it does nevertheless influence it. Resistance, as Freud observes, arises between new ideas and revived memories. (18) For Perceval, resistance situates itself within the story of his family's history, which portrays a knightly vulnerability and Perceval's own conception of the knight as unwoundable.

Faced with her son's admiration for the apparent invulnerability of the knights, Perceval's mother decides to reveal to him the story of his lineage. For the first time, she describes to her only living son the wounding and eventual death of his father and the deaths of his older brothers. Although she emphasizes the grant enor and proesce of the knights that compose Perceval's lineage, she nevertheless insists that the noble and valiant knight is destined to fall:

To progress beyond the repeated gesture of silencing his mother's voice would mean necessarily to know the story of his father's demise and therefore to accept the weight of his mother's need. As Huchet argues, Perceval carries the need of his mother and is suffocated by it without even knowing it, and this will trouble his every gesture. (19)

In order to cut himself free of this maternal weight and in order to become a knight, i.e. to become his father's son, Perceval must avoid any knowledge of the pain that his father's death caused. Oblivion to pain is the price that he pays for his liberation from a suffocating maternal bond. He can become his father's son only by actively forgetting the maternal account of his father's death. It is interesting to note that Perceval gains his name only after leaving his mother. Gornemant, who adopts a fatherly role toward Perceval, asks him to name himself:

In response to the demand of a fatherly figure, Perceval provides a name within which the very name of the father, pere, is inscribed: Pere-ceval. Perceval takes on the father's name in relation to a fatherly figure, Gornemant, who will ask that he forget his mother's teaching.

When Perceval fully becomes a knight, thanks to the fatherly teachings of Gornemant, he takes off the garments that his mother made for him and follows Gornemant's instructions to stop invoking her words and teachings:

Gornemant is essentially taking the place of the mother as teacher, substituting his voice for hers.

By accepting this erasure, Perceval has in a way 'killed' or muted his mother's voice before arriving at the castle of the Fisher King. This criminal muting comes back to haunt him at the castle. According to the hermit, Perceval is mute because he has muted his mother:

His silence is the punishment for a previous crime, a punishment that brings this crime into the open in an ambiguous manner. Perceval does not know or want to know the original sin that he committed by muting his mother's voice. He is punished for this crime by being muted himself. Through his muteness, he is forced to know himself as a criminal although he still does not know the precise nature of the crime for which he is punished. He thinks he is punished for not having asked the question; he does not know that he failed to ask the question because he had committed a previous and still unacknowledged crime.

Why is the muting of the mother's voice so criminal? The mother is in the position of teacher. To mute her voice, to kill her, is to mute a certain teaching. Her teaching is religious in nature. She wants him to go to church, to make the sign of the cross (se signer), i.e. to know about the God of the cross, the God who suffered himself to be wounded, and most importantly of all, proclaimed the redemptive value of pain and suffering. This maternal teaching is explicitly opposed to the chivalric values that will later fascinate Perceval. As he leaves his mother to become a knight, Perceval forgets the pain that the maternal voice taught him to remember. This forgetting is evident in his indifference to her pain. As he leaves home, in spite of his mother's pleading, to set out for King Arthur's court in the hope of becoming a knight, he looks back one last time at his mother, who has collapsed in despair. Instead of comforting her, he continues on his journey. He manifests the same indifference to pain in the scene at the castle, where he remains oblivious to the suffering of the Fisher King. But this time his indifference provokes a crime that he will not be allowed to ignore. If he had been less oblivious to pain, he would not have delayed asking the sacred question. Here again, the crime is punished by its being repeated. Perceval's criminal indifference towards his mother is punished by a repeated indifference, this time towards the Fisher King. Chretien's text depicts the operation of a surprising law: the criminal who does not want to know his crime will be forced to repeat it. But with a difference: the second time around he is forced to know himself as a criminal although he still does not know that the crime of which he is accused is in fact the repetition of a previous and unacknowledged crime.

This he will learn only through an aggravated repetition of the second crime. As he forgets God in his chivalric wanderings, Perceval repeats the second crime of silence since, in a way, he 'forgot' God by not asking the sacred question. As for his wandering away from God, it repeats and amplifies his initial error, his wandering away from the mother and her religious teaching. Perceval is thus punished for his error by being condemned to err, to wander, always further away. And it is at this point, when he has forgotten everything including himself, that, paradoxically enough, he might finally know his original crime.

(1) Chretien de Troyes, Le Conte du Graal, ed. by Charles Mela (Paris: Livre de Poche, 1990). English translations are my own unless otherwise noted.

(2) David Berdah, La Haggadah de Paque avec traduction et commentaires en langue francaise (Tunis: S.L. Editions, 1957); Eugene Weinraub, Chretien's Jewish Grail (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976).

(3) C. T. Gossen, 'Zur etymologischen Deutung des Grals', Vox Romanica, 18 (1959), 177-219.

(4) Robert de Boron, Joseph d'Arimathie, ed. by Richard O'Gorman (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1995).

(5) 'Mais le graal? Ce plat ou presenter les mets, suivi du plateau ou decouper les viandes ("tailloir"), n'apparait qu'en un second temps, distinct de la Lance, a la fois comme une profusion, une surenchere de lumiere et comme un mouvement, un passage d'un lieu en un autre' (Charles Mela, Blanchefleur et le saint homme ou la semblance des reliques (Paris: Seuil, 1979), pp. 35-36).

(6) In the Roman de l'Estoire dou Graal Robert de Boron links the grail to the Passion of Christ. The grail serves as both the vessel at the Last Supper and the one Joseph of Arimathea used to collect the blood of Christ at the time of the Crucifixion. The grail is Christianized in the Queste del Saint Graal (ed. by Albert Pauphilet (Paris: Champion, 1999), ll. 1225-30) as an image of Grace in its role as both liturgical object and relic of the Passion.

(7) Avraham ben Rabbi Natan Hayarhi remarks on this in the Sepher Hamanhig, a text dating from the early twelfth century outlining customs and rituals of Jewish communities in Europe. See 'The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism', (Jerusalem: Judaica Press Books of the Bible, 1967), p. 134.

(8) Robert Nerson, La Haggada commentee: traduction et commentaire du texte integral de la Haggada de Paque; explication des usages du sedere (Paris: Colbo, 1966), p. 5.

(9) Mendel Metzger, La Haggada enluminee, I: Etude iconographique et stylistique des manuscrits enlumines et decores de la Haggada du XII[I.sup.e] au XV[I.sup.e] siecle, Etudes sur le judaisme medieval, 2 (Leiden: Brill, 1973), p. 82.

(10) The Palace Gates Haggadah, compiled by Rabbi Shalom Wallach, trans. by Avraham Sutton (Jerusalem: Feldheim Publishers, 1995), p. 32.

(11) Herbert C. Dobrinsky, A Treasury of Sephardic Laws and Customs: The Ritual Practices of Syrian, Moroccan, Judeo-Spanish and Spanish and Portuguese Jews of North America (New York: Yeshiva University Press, 1986), p. 256.

(12) See Weinraub, pp. 35-36.

(13) Mela, pp. 20-21, notes Perceval's particular fascination for the brilliance of the knights' armour when he encounters them in the forest. Jean Frappier, Le Roman breton (Paris: Centre de Documentation, Sorbonne, 1960), pp. 54-55, notes Perceval's keen observation both of the knights he encounters and of the brilliance of the grail as it passes, but that he does not ask the necessary question (which would reflect an awareness of the suffering of the Fisher King).

(14) Chretien de Troyes, Perceval: The Story of the Grail, trans. by Burton Raffel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), ll. 6254-66.

(15) 'Mereceval', Litterature, 40 (1980), 69-94.

(16) William Kibler prefers, I believe correctly, to translate 'anches' as 'thighs'.

(17) 'The greater the resistance, the more expensively will acting out (repetition) replace remembering [ ... ] The patient repeats instead of remembering, and repeats under the conditions of resistance' (Sigmund Freud, 'Remembering, Repeating and Working Through', in The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, 24 vols (London: Hogarth, 1955-74), XII (1958), 145-56 (p. 151).

(18) Sigmund Freud, Studies on Hysteria, trans. and ed. by James Strachey (New York: Basic Books, 1957), pp. 238-39.

(19) 'Le refus de la parole maternelle signe la volonte de rester arrime a la pulsion orale; Perceval y reconnait, dans un pur effet de denegation, sa soumission au desir de l'Autre' (Huchet, p. 75).


COPYRIGHT 2006 Modern Humanities Research Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:McCullough, Ann
Publication:The Modern Language Review
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Previous Article:Genius loci: placing place in Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Next Article:Alexis Piron's ha-ha: shifting identities in La Metromanie.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters