Publication details [#9402]

Rossignol, Rosalyn. 1993. The symbolic as milieu and image in four grail romances: Chretien de Troyes, Malory Thomas, Wolfram von Eschenbach.


In the past, various theories of the grail legend's origin have heavily influenced the analysis and criticism of medieval grail texts. My own analysis reverses this approach by allowing the narrative structure and symbolic configuration of four grail romances to speak for themselves, while using psychoanalysis as a theoretical framework to discuss the Oedipal themes that appear throughout Chretien de Troyes' 'Conte du Graal', Wolfram von'Eschenbach's 'Parzival', the Old French Vulgate 'Queste del saint Graal', and Thomas Malory's 'Tale of the Sankgreal'. My interpretation of narrative sequencing, plus the metaphorical and metonymical associations of the symbols, lance and grail, parallel recent findings in social anthropology regarding the dynamics of kinship relations and incest prohibition. Romances, like fairy tales, folktales, and a number of myths, traditionally center on familial and societal relationships, and Freud himself pointed out the relevance of psychoanalysis to understanding such traditional narratives. From a psychoanalytic and structural point of view, these four romances of the grail suggest that the grail was a symbol through which certain medieval writers attempted to articulate and mediate desire. Lacan's application of Saussure's linguistic theory to psychoanalysis provides the paradigm for my reading of desire as the drive to seek the ultimate, ineffable signified by achieving the grail. (Rosalyn Rossignol)