The books The search for the Grail: the first universal theme of European literature

During the 12th century, European society experienced a fruitful sociocultural explosion that affected all aspects of life and whose reflection we find today in the birth and spread of Gothic art or the first great medieval universities

The books The search for the Grail: the first universal theme of European literature

During the 12th century, European society experienced a fruitful sociocultural explosion that affected all aspects of life and whose reflection we find today in the birth and spread of Gothic art or the first great medieval universities. In the literary field, the first manifestations of one of the great cycles of the medieval epic, the Matter of Brittany, which deals with the exploits of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and would welcome the development of one of the the great myths of European letters: the Grail.

Publishing House: Cilengua. San Millán de la Cogolla FoundationYear of publication: 2022Available in Cilengua: here.Available in Unebook: here.

As the scholar Joseph Campbell defends in his seminal The Story of the Grail, the rise of Arthurian tales -which coincides not coincidentally with the construction of the great cathedrals-, was due to the fact that European society tried to adjust the traditional Celtic mentality and Germanic of the continent to be able to assimilate the collective approach of an Eastern religion like Christianity. Thus, he affirms: "in all these works a Christian vocabulary is observed but completely European forms of consciousness, something similar to a much more individualistic European thought."

The literary genesis of this cycle goes back to one of the novels in verse by the French cleric Chrétien de Troyes, known as The Tale of the Grail or Perceval, written in the second half of the 12th century and in which the Arthurian theme predominates, as well as the cultivation of the new chivalrous ideal without neglecting a didactic intention and the defense of the already consolidated Christian values. The novel was interrupted by the death of its author, who died when he had written 9,234 verses, which favored the appearance of various continuations and explorations of this literary theme.

It is through the analysis of this work and its impact that the journey proposed by professors María-Pilar Suárez and José Ramón Trujillo begins in La búsqueda en el universo artúrico, published by Cilengua, an exciting journey in which seven other specialists articulate in successive essays the different modulations and rewritings of this ideal search taking Chrétien's unfinished work as a point of reference, a search that over time has crossed borders to become one of the most famous motifs and rich in metaphors of the cultural imaginary from the West.

From the end of the 12th century to the Renaissance and even the 20th century, and from France to Germany, Portugal and Spain, each of the essays proposes a joint approach to these different modulations experienced by the chivalrous hero, a journey whose common thread is the theme/reason for the search -la queste, on demand, die suche-, the main engine of Arthurian literature that has changed over the centuries, being the search for a sacred vessel that has remained in the popular imagination, only Of one of them. Thus, throughout this itinerary we wonder what Perceval and the Arthurian knights are really looking for.

For example, in the chapter Perceval is not looking for the grail: the search for words in Chrétien de Troyes, Suárez reflects on the modernity of a Perceval who is not looking for an object, but rather begins a personal search for self-discovery oriented towards the word and the meaning that it gives to the relationships that the hero establishes with himself and with the beings and objects he finds on his way. Also cited in the book is Robert de Boron, a pioneer in carrying out what would be the first explicit interpretation of the Grail in a Christian key, or, already from Germany and by Ana Ruiz, the reinterpretations of the motifs and topics in the Parsifal, of Wolfram von Eschenbach, who makes a large number of plot innovations while delving into the characterization of Parsifal, torn by the conflict between his earthly ambitions and the obedience due to God.

After this journey through the 12th and 13th centuries, we find ourselves in the stage that includes French and Hispanic texts composed at the end of the Middle Ages and at the beginning of Modernity. Christine Ferlampin-Acher presents the late and anonymous text Artus de Bretagne. Although this work seems to be part of the Arthurian universe, we also appreciate elements from other works and materials. In this line, the author points out that the Arthurian elements are blurred and, specifically, the search is reformulated. In the next two chapters, Karla Xiomara Luna Mariscal and José Ramón Trujillo focus on the changes that the motive for the search undergoes in the Castilian reworkings, in which the adventure remains unfinished and becomes an inheritance.

And if that happens in Spain, in Portugal Aurelio Vargas Díaz-Toledo explains how the Portuguese books of chivalry from the 16th and 17th centuries take elements from the Arthurian universe to elaborate a type of search whose goal is a person, instead of an object or object. a place. In this way, the Lusitanian authors sought to extol the virtues of their monarchs and of the Portuguese nation itself in a time of frequent conflicts and great competition among European countries.

The final two chapters of the book take us to the near 20th century, when both in France and Spain, the reinterpretations have been various. Michèle Gally proposes a journey through French works that address the search motif centered on the figure of Perceval. The author invites you to explore various texts - poetic (Bonnefoy, Merle), theatrical (Roubaud-Delay), even a graphic novel (Pandolfo

In the field of Hispanic literature, Juan Miguel Zarandona analyzes Quebranto y ventura del caballero Gaiferos, by Manuel Ferrand, a humorous work that arises from the recovery and modification of Arthurian elements. Ferrand resorts to the Arthurian heritage to build a new universe in which the loss of the sacred value and the powers of the Grail stands out, which is reduced to a common object.

These contemporary examples show the validity of an Arthurian universe that still has a lot to say to the contemporary reader, who with this volume can begin a journey through space and time in which the changes that the search, the figure of the Grail, and that of the seeker himself and the wandering hero have suffered in the West in order to become a reflection and response to the concerns of the human being throughout his journey through History.

According to the criteria of The Trust Project