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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.

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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.


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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 development of the relationship between incest and tragedy.

Guyer, Foster Erwin. Chrétien de Troyes: Inventor of the Modern Novel. 1957. Reprint. New York: AMS Press, 1972. Explores Chrétien’s impact on later fiction. Argues that his work had no immediate models, although it adapted the form and structure of Vergil’s Aeneid and Ovid’s love poetry. Concludes that Chrétien stands at the very beginning of the modern novelistic tradition.

Guyer, Foster Erwin. Romance in the Making: Chrétien de Troyes and the Earliest French Romances. New York: S. F. Vanni, 1954. Argues that Chrétien’s style is inspired by Vergil and Ovid, his view of love by Ovid, and many of his plot elements by Geoffrey of Monmouth. None of Chrétien’s sources, Guyer concludes, was French.

Kelly, Douglas. Chrétien de Troyes: An Analytic Bibliography. Rochester, N.Y.: Tamesis, 2002. This volume is an indispensable reference tool. Includes index.

Lacy, Norris J. and Joan Tasker Grimbert. A Companion to Chrétien de Troyes. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2005. A collection of essays offering critical insight into all aspects of Chrétien de Troyes’ works, including literary and historical context, themes in his writing and his influence on other writers.

Lewis, Charles Bertram. Classical Mythology and Arthurian Romance. Geneva: Slatkine, 1974. Advances the interesting thesis that the plots of Chrétien’s short fiction were largely derived from Greek mythology. Lewis believes that corrupt French versions of stories brought northward from Rome about Theseus and Helen of Troy provided the inspiration for Yvain, Lancelot, and Erec and Enide. Includes an extensive bibliography.

Loomis, Roger Sherman, ed. Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages. 2d ed. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1961. A comprehensive, illustrated collection of articles on a wide array of Arthurian topics.

Luttrell, Claude. The Creation of the First Arthurian Romance: A Quest. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1974. A detailed examination of Chrétien’s stories in terms of their folklore patterns. Argues that the Celtic influence was minimal.

Maddox, Donald. The Arthurian Romances of Chrétien de Troyes: Once and Future Fictions. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1991. A good study of the tales. Includes bibliographical references and an

Topsfield, L. T. Chrétien de Troyes: A Study of the Arthurian Romances. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1981. A useful survey by a specialist in troubadour poetics.

Uitti, Karl D., and Michelle A. Freeman. Chrétien de Troyes Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1995. An overview of Chrétien’ work, including an analysis of Perceval as continuing themes introduced in Chrétien’ earlier romances.

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Critical Essays