Chrétien de Troyes Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Chrétien de Troyes, whose complete works are listed above, is acknowledged as the first writer of Arthurian romance in the vernacular. He is also the originator of the Arthurian version of the Grail legend, although his is not a fully Christianized version.

Chrétien de Troyes Achievements

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

One of the first poets to treat the legend of King Arthur, Chrétien is widely regarded as the founder of the medieval romantic tradition. More than anyone else, Chrétien defined the characteristics of romance for later generations. For example, his use of humor, irony, and symbolism influenced romantic authors such as Marie de France, Gottfried von Strassburg, and Wolfram von Eschenbach. His Perceval, which contains the earliest known use of the Grail legend in the Arthurian tradition, continued to be a model for romantic works as late as Richard Wagner’s Parsifal (1986). Moreover, Chrétien’s use of the supernatural inspired those who revived the Romantic and gothic traditions at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The code of courtly love seen in Chrétien’s works is similar to that described in Andreas Capellanus’s The Art of Courtly Love (1969). Chrétien’s knights embody Christian virtues and combine physical strength with romantic devotion. Other values represented by the heroes of Chrétien’s poems are similar to the aristocratic code embraced by the author’s wealthy and well-educated audience.

Chrétien de Troyes Bibliography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Cazelles, Brigitte. The Unholy Grail: A Social Reading of Chrétien de Troyes’ “Conte du Graal.” Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1996. Argues that Perceval is a masked account of historical crisis, in this case the tradition of chivalry, in feudal society.

Chrétien de Troyes. Chrétien de Troyes: The Knight with the Lion: Or, Yvain. Edited and translated by William W. Kibler. New York: Garland, 1986. This fine edition, which complements Kibler’ translation of Lancelot (1981), provides an excellent introduction, a modern English translation facing the Old French text, and a detailed bibliography.

Frappier, Jean. Chrétien de Troyes: The Man and His Work. Translated by Raymond J. Cormier. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1982. This illustrated critical work includes extensive notes and an index and is written for the general reader.

Guerin, M. Victoria. The Fall of Kings and Princes: Structure and Destruction in Arthurian Tragedy. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1995. Discusses how Chrétien draws from the relationship between Arthurian incest and Arthurian tragedy in Lancelot and Perceval. Examines Mordred’s incestuous origin and his illicit incestuous desire for his father’s wife. Argues that these enigmatic texts must be read side by side in order to understand their...

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