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Perceval and Gawain in Dark Mirrors:…

Perceval and Gawain in Dark Mirrors: Reflection and Reflexivity in… (2014)

by Rupert T. Pickens, Martha Danek (Illustrator)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
As a work of scholarly literary criticism, Perceval and Gawain in Dark Mirrors is meticulously well-researched and thorough. The end notes are extensive, as is the bibliography. As far as its thesis, which traces Arthurian influences in Cretien de Troyes' Conte del Graal, the author presents a credible case for the use of reflection and reflective surfaces as metaphor, though I do think his argument would be bolstered by a more in-depth analysis of other possible authorial influences.

For a scholar working on Arthurian literary studies or Romance literature, this book would be a valuable asset. However, as other reviewers have noted, this is not a quick read for the casual fan of the Arthurian stories. ( )
  lpmejia | Dec 15, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a book about one of the Arthurian romances that seems parallel and distnt at the same time from those recounted in Le Morte D'Arthur of Mallory. Pickens uses the idea of mirrors and reflections to get underneath the main characters he hs chosen to foucs on, Perceval and Gawin. Lancelot is minor in this book and Galahad is absent. The Contes de Graal does not end properly and attains a somewhat post-modern quality to it in the process, nd so we don't dwell on this when we remember Arthurian stuff.

The book is fairly academic and the idea of intertexuality can almost seem off-putting. Pickens does look look reflect on biblical and religious ides as infusing motives of characters, but the failures of Perceval are consistent and not resolved. We do have the bad situation of the Fisher King in the Grail Cstle and the story of the Weeping Maiden.

It would have been nice if the author had given us us some insight into his jumping on the motif of reflectivity at the beginning of the book. The index is semi-exhaustive, but Gawain is mostly missing. Of course, there is the idea of Gawain as Perceval's double. I found the illustrations of Martha Danek to be charming. ( )
  vpfluke | May 17, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I requested Perceval and Gawain in Dark Mirrors because I read the Romances in college and loved them. After reading this book I see that it is really meant to be more of a companion text for someone currently studying the romances of Chretian de Troyes. The book assumes you are already very familiar with the stories and does not give a lot of background.

Pickens makes some interesting observations about the use of reflective objects in the Conte del Graal, explaining metaphors and meanings in the text. I'm not an expert in this area by any means, but some of his conclusions seemed a little flimsy, almost like you could read any meaning into the use of certain words and metaphors.

I did notice a lot of typos and errors throughout the text, but I am not sure if I received an uncorrected copy or not. Overall, I think this would be at least an interesting, if not useful, supplementary text to someone currently studying the Romances.
  Tess_Elizabeth | Apr 29, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is broken down into four chapters: Specularity and Reflective Sequences, The Hermitage: “He that adideth in charity”, Gawain in the Galloway Borderland, Apotheosis and Relapse… with a conclusion, “Hide your good deeds from your left hand” and three appendices.

I have to admit I am a bit rusty on my Chretien de Troyes, however I connected with chapter three: Gawain in the Galloway Borderland. This chapter, one could read and understand with minimal scholarly background (or a rusty background) in de Troyes work. (I am better versed in his earlier work The Knight of the Cart)

Overall this is a scholarly resource on Chretien de Troyes description of mirrors—both real and figurative—in the unfinished work of the Conte de Graal/Story of the Grail. It is not meant to be a light read but an in-depth look at key element in the romance that sparked an enduring fascination with the holy grail… ( )
1 vote Shuffy2 | Mar 22, 2015 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
First let me say that in the best way possible and also the worst way possible, this is a scholarly book. Meaning, it is a book for scholars. More specifically it is a book for scholars on the Arthurian epic poems of Chretien de Troyes and even more specifically on the final, unfinished sections of Perceval and Gawain. Given that very narrow focus - this is exceedingly well researched and it is a significant skill that the writer was able to mostly allow me to follow him all the way until the end.
I'm familiar with the "matter of Britain" as it is sometimes known, these Arthurian stories, but my knowledge ends with a reasonable knowledge of the story gleaned from T.H. White and others. If one was a scholar and an exceedingly avid reader of the core works on which this is based - then this might be an illuminating read for you. If you are not of that ilk with only a passing interest generated by the Clive Owen film, then I would give it a pass. ( )
1 vote stuart10er | Mar 17, 2015 |
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For Nancy, my life's light,
in the fiftieth year of our marriage
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Chrétien de Troyes's Conte del Graal
Perceval or the Conte del Graal (Story of the Grail) was written, probably late in the decade 1181-1190, in the court of Phillip of Alsace, count of Flanders, by Chrétien de Troyes, a native of Champagne.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0786494387, Paperback)

An innovative author of verse romance, Chretien de Troyes wrote in northern France between 1170 and 1190. Credited with the first Arthurian romance, he composed five works set in King Arthur's court, culminating with an unfinished masterpiece, the Conte del Graal (Story of the Grail). This text is the first to mention the banquet serving dish that became the Holy Grail in early efforts to rewrite or complete the text.

This book focuses on the Conte's narrative depiction of mirrors real and metaphorical: shining armor, a polished golden eagle, the Grail itself, St. Paul's enigmatic looking glass, the blood drops in snow in which Perceval sees the face of his beloved. The last chapter joins the controversy over Chretien's intended conclusion, and proposes a climactic ending in which Perceval, heir to the Grail kingdom, confronts his double, Gauvain, heir to Arthur's Logres.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:38 -0400)

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