, Volume 87, Issue 4, pp 517–527 | Cite as

"Por coi la pucele pleure": The feminine enigma of the Grail Quest

  • Ben Ramm


This essay will address the ambiguous inscription of a feminine presence in twelfth- and thirteenth-century French texts narrating the Quest of the Holy Grail, focusing in particular on the anonymous prose romance La Queste del Saint Graal (ca. 1220). My enquiry will track the evolving position assumed by women across the Grail texts, from Chrétien's Perceval (ca. 1181) through to the prose Tristan (ca. 1250), and proceed with an analysis of the figure of Perceval's sister in the Queste. In order to investigate the narrative treatment of gender-bias in the Queste, I will seek to reassess the notion of redemption, which will illuminate the ambiguous position occupied by women in this text. A simultaneous inscription and erasure of feminine presence is operational in the Queste, hinging on the erroneous predicate that a reduction of woman's visibility within the narrative frame coincides with a diminishing of her import. I ultimately seek to argue that woman represents the constitutive outside of the Quest, the very exclusion which represents its fundamental condition of possibility.


Comparative Literature Historical Linguistic Fundamental Condition Ambiguous Position Prose 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ben Ramm
    • 1
  1. 1.St. Catharine's CollegeCambridgeUK E-mail

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