The call to adventure: a quest for the literary grail

Fitzpatrick, K (2017) The call to adventure: a quest for the literary grail. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.


The purpose of this study is to reflect on the literary Grail and its continuing relevance, drawing on the development of my novel The Book of Astolat. I will suggest that, as a motif and a narrative device, the Grail represents that which has meaning within the cultural moment of the novelist. The French poet Chretien de Troyes wrote the first Grail romance, Perceval, in the twelfth century, and Thomas Malory revived it for a new readership in the fifteenth century. Both Chretien and Malory were literary innovators who made the story's themes more accessible to their readers. In the centuries since, a significant number of novelists and poets have reimagined the Grail for their own time. This study will consider some of these reimaginings alongside my own intervention. The study is divided into four parts which could be seen to correspond to the Four Hallows, or sacred objects: Cup, Platter, Lance and Sword, which are carried in the Grail procession in Perceval. Each Hallow represents a natural element and corresponds to a human quality. In Jungian analytical psychology there is a corresponding theory of these human qualities as four 'psychological types': 'thinking', 'feeling', 'sensation' and 'intuition'. According to the Jungian model, we each possess these four functions, but one's most developed, or dominant, psychological function defines their personality. In the novelist, perhaps this dominant function also, to some degree, defines their writing. The four central characters in the Book of Astolat: Elayne of Astolat, Elizabeth Wydeville, Thomas Malory and William Caxton, might each be seen to embody one of these psychological types. Between them, there is potential for the narrative to be made whole. Part I: the Cup, introduces the Grail as a literary device and Jungian motif, and also the character of Elayne as the evolution of the tragic heroine The Lily Maid of Astolat. Elayne's psychological type might be defined as 'feeling'. This chapter examines the challenges of structuring a narrative that spans two decades in the fifteenth century, and how writing a commissioned novel which is outcome-driven might impact on the creative practice of the author. Part II, the Lance, introduces my fictional version of Thomas Malory and the historical character that he was modelled from -- using as clues his own writing and that of his biographers. Malory, a poet and early novelist, is assigned the psychological type 'intuition'. Part II pursues the idea that writing a novel is as much an undertaking of the unconscious mind as the conscious. It expands on the discussion about the difficulties of balancing creative and instinctive urges with the expectations of a commercial publisher. Part III, The Platter, examines the inspiration behind my conceit that Elizabeth Wydeville, Edward IV's queen; psychological type: 'sensation', could feasibly have been Malory's patron in writing the Morte D'Arthur. Elizabeth is historically defined by her physical beauty and, in my rendering of her, drawn to the earthly pleasures of wealth and fame. The impact of editorial intervention on The Book of Astolat and the challenges posed by he second significant restructuring of the novel are explored in this chapter. Part IV, The Sword, considers the influence of William Caxton, England's first publisher, had on the Grail story. A shrewd businessman, editor and gifted translator, Caxton is the 'thinker'. Part IV draws some conclusions about the influence of genre-led publishing and the book trade on creative practice, and the Grail as synonymous with the search for meaning, in narrative as in life. As a result of this study I have come to see the literary Grail as an intrinsically personal motif, illuminating the quest inherent in writing an extended narrative and symbolic of the latent wisdom of the psyche. The Grail quest might be in fact a search for something lost; that which has personal meaning.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)

Thesis supervised by Dr Tracy Brain.

Keywords: PhD by Practice, creative writing, historical fiction, Arthurian legend, psyche, the unconscious, psychological analysis, publishing, quest narratives, symbolism, Holy Grail, Chretien de Troyes, Elizabeth Wydeville, Thomas Malory, William Caxton, Elaine of Astolat, Carl Jung, Jungian psychology
Divisions: School of Writing, Publishing and the Humanities
Date Deposited: 17 Oct 2018 13:59
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2024 18:46
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