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M for Merlin

Helen Cooper: Chrétien deTroyes, 25 November 1999

Perceval: The Story of the Grail 
by Chrétien deTroyes, translated by Burton Raffel.
Yale, 307 pp., £22.50, March 1999, 0 300 07586 3
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... and quickly Saddled his hunting horse . . . In these lines we are introduced to the hero of Chrétien deTroyes’s last romance, written late in the 12th century. He is a youth brought up in the forest, without any knowledge of his high lineage, knighthood, the basic rules of polite behaviour, or his own ...

Fill it with fish

Helen Cooper: The trail of the Grail, 6 June 2002

Parzival and the Stone from Heaven: A Grail Romance Retold for Our Time 
by Lindsay Clarke.
HarperCollins, 239 pp., £14.99, September 2001, 0 00 710813 3
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Merlin and the Grail: ‘Joseph of Arimathea’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Perceval’ The Trilogy of Arthurian Romances Attributed to Robert de Boron 
translated by Nigel Bryant.
Boydell and Brewer, 172 pp., £30, May 2001, 0 85991 616 2
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Le Livre du Graal. Tome I: ‘Joseph D’Arimathie’, ‘Merlin’, ‘Les Premiers Faits du Roi Arthur’ 
edited by Daniel Poirion and Philippe Walter.
Gallimard, 1993 pp., £50.95, April 2001, 2 07 011342 6
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... to have been the right size for serving a large fish, and was regularly used for that purpose. Chrétien deTroyes, who wrote the earliest of the Grail narratives, entitled simply Le Conte du Graal, describes it as the appropriate dish for a pike or lamprey or salmon. ...

Church of Garbage

Robert Irwin, 3 February 2000

The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives 
by Carole Hillenbrand.
Edinburgh, 648 pp., £80, July 1999, 0 7486 0905 9
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... of Clairvaux, Peter Abelard, Hugh of St Victor, Suger, Otto of Freising, John of Salisbury, Chrétien deTroyes, Marie de France, Hildegard of Bingen, Gottfried von Strassburg, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Roger Bacon, Snorri Sturluson, Leonardo Fibonacci, Aquinas and many others ...


Peter Burke, 18 March 1982

The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought 
by John Friedman.
Harvard, 268 pp., £14, July 1981, 0 674 58652 2
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Apparitions in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain 
by William Christian.
Princeton, 349 pp., £16.80, September 1981, 9780691053264
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... as we consider Pygmies to be dwarfs, so they consider us giants,’ wrote Jacques de Vitry, a l3th-century bishop whose years in the Middle East may have encouraged him to be less ethnocentric than the majority of his contemporaries. A more general issue raised by Friedman’s book is that of the nature and functions of the stereotype, and in ...

Wholly Given Over to Thee

Anne Barton: Literary romance, 2 December 2004

The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare 
by Helen Cooper.
Oxford, 560 pp., £65, June 2004, 0 19 924886 9
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... the situation. Where in all this is the ‘quest’ element – at least as we understand it in Chrétien deTroyes, in Malory, or in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? Cooper’s most interesting and successful chapters are probably ‘Desirable Desire: I Am Wholly Given Over to Thee’ and ‘Women on Trial’. The ...

Worse than Pagans

Tom Shippey: The Church v. the Fairies, 1 December 2016

Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church 
by Richard Firth Green.
Pennsylvania, 285 pp., £36, August 2016, 978 0 8122 4843 2
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... was about to fall. Fall it did, in 1376, when it was taken from its English garrison by Jean de France, Duc de Berri. According to Jean d’Arras, who wrote an influential account of the whole legend, he was told the story by his patron, the duc himself, who put in much more detail. In the duc’s version Mélusine ...

Writing French in English

Helen Cooper: Chaucer’s Language, 7 October 2010

The Familiar Enemy: Chaucer, Language and Nation in the Hundred Years War 
by Ardis Butterfield.
Oxford, 444 pp., £60, December 2009, 978 0 19 957486 5
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... confused with issues of political or cultural inferiority. French as the language of the Ile-de-France, and therefore the only correct form of French, imposed itself across most of present-day France only in the course of the 20th century, and, as in Alsace, its dominance is not yet total. There seem to be no fixed rules for what happens to language ...

Medieval Fictions

Stuart Airlie, 21 February 1985

by Maurice Keen.
Yale, 303 pp., £12.95, April 1984, 0 300 03150 5
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The Rise of Romance 
by Eugène Vinaver.
Boydell, 158 pp., £12, February 1984, 0 85991 158 6
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War in the Middle Ages 
by Philippe Contamine, translated by Michael Jones.
Blackwell, 387 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 631 13142 6
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War and Government in the Middle Ages 
edited by John Gillingham and J.C. Holt.
Boydell, 198 pp., £25, July 1984, 0 85115 404 2
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Prussian Society and the German Order 
by Michael Burleigh.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £22.50, May 1984, 9780521261043
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... C.S. Lewis) does now seem rather old-fashioned and bellelettrist and one’s understanding of Chrétien deTroyes is not increased by the parallels that Vinaver draws between him and John Steinbeck; nor does the long section on Flaubert serve to throw much light on Medieval or modern literature. Dr ...

The ashtrays worry me

Emilie Bickerton: Eric Rohmer, 19 March 2015

Eric Rohmer: Biographie 
by Antoine de Baecque and Noël Herpe.
Stock, 605 pp., €29, January 2014, 978 2 234 07561 0
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Friponnes de porcelaine 
by Eric Rohmer.
Stock, 304 pp., €20, January 2014, 978 2 234 07631 0
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... method is now documented in a biography – the first – by the French film historians Antoine de Baecque and Noël Herpe. Compared to his New Wave comrades, Rohmer’s work has never been especially cool or iconic, yet more than François Truffaut’s or Jean-Luc Godard’s it divides audiences right down the middle. Those who like his films are often ...

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