, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 225-239
Date: 29 Apr 2009

Perceval’s Puerile Perceptions: The First Scene of the Conte du Graal as an Index of Medieval Concepts of Human Development Theory

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Abstract

Utilising the first scene of Chrétien de Troyes’s Conte du Graal, this paper explores the problematic nature of applying modern psychological theory to medieval literature, and proposes how medieval literature itself may actually provide a useful, and relatively untapped, source for understanding contemporaneous concepts of cognitive and perceptual development. Specifically, it demonstrates how the oddly childlike characteristics of Chrétien’s Perceval, in this often-named Bildungsroman, can be interpreted as mirroring particular schemes of development imagined by Classical and Medieval thinkers such as Aristotle, Augustine and Boethius. The level of influence and popularity enjoyed by the Conte, and indeed by Chrétien’s other works, implies that any scheme of development which can be demonstrated as central to Chrétien’s narrative(s) may have been more widely authoritative. As such, medieval literature may offer the medieval scholar acres of unploughed territory from which to glean a more complete understanding of psychoanalysis in the Middle Ages.