Heirs of the Round Table: French Arthurian Fiction from 1977 to the Present
Other Languages, Societies, and Cultures
While the English-speaking tradition has dominated the production of Arthurian-themed materials since the nineteenth-century Arthurian Revival, there is evidence that the publication of modern Arthurian fiction in French has enjoyed a major upswing over the past few decades. Notable contributions include Michel Rio's Merlin-Morgane-Arthur trilogy, Jacques Roubaud and Florence Delay's ten-volume cycle Graal thÃ©Ã¢tre, a half-dozen fantasy novels about the origins of the Arthurian world by Jean-Louis Fetjaine, and medievalist Michel Zink's young adult novel DÃ©odat, ou la transparence. Such texts are deeply anchored in the medieval tradition, invested in co-opting the flavor of medieval source texts at the level of narration as well as plot. Textual genealogies are frequently thematized in modern French Arthuriana by authors who credit a medieval parentage, whether through a narratorial intervention or paratexual references. As modern texts seek their own ground--whether as parodies, pastiches, entirely new adventures, or retellings of familiar stories from new perspectives--they continually draw upon the dozens of Arthurian works produced centuries before, presenting themselves as heirs to a literary tradition. With this implicit authorization, they continue its evolution. This paradigm replicates that which is already found in the medieval source material, whether in the Vulgate Cycle's transformation of the Grail Quest from the romance conceived by ChrÃ©tien de Troyes into a Christian work exhorting scriptural exegesis, or in Wace's appropriation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Brittaniae. Modern authors engage with the same process in ways that reflect a canny understanding of Arthurian literature, both its early iterations and its ongoing trajectory. Intertwined threads of genealogy, authority, legacy, and tradition in modern French Arthurian texts reveal an affinity between medieval and postmodern literary practice. As authors of the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries appropriate Arthurian material, they adopt techniques and textual strategies closely associated with medieval literature, recycling them to advance postmodern agendas.