We'll look at how the Grail was invented as a powerful literary symbol in the late 12th and early 13th centuries by a group of medieval romancers who celebrated the Grail as a symbol of perfection. At times, this perfection was social, and the Grail functioned as a symbol of the perfect knight or of the ideal chivalric society. Most often, however, the Grail's perfection was unmistakably religious, so that it was indeed the Holy Grail, a symbol of God's perfect love, grace, wisdom, and joy.
After being ignored for centuries, the Grail was rediscovered in the 19th century by both poets and scholars, who radically reinvented what the Grail stood for. Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, the Grail fascinates many who search for the perfect spiritual wisdom it promises.
This is another winner in the Modern Scholar series. Although one might wish for a more modulated voice (especially in the early lectures), Professor Potkay obviously knows her stuff. If you are like me, you know about the Grail in bits and pieces from the Arthurian legends, from movies and books. This course provides a fascinating context for those "pop culture" Grail references.
It's most interesting to find that legends of the Grail don't surface until the Middle Ages and that they are more European than Middle Eastern . We learn here a great deal more about people like Joseph of Aramathea, who supposedly brings the Grail to England; about the more obscure figures of The Fisher King and Prester John; and about Percevel, Lancelot, and Galahad and the Knightly quests for the Grail. There's discussion of the mysteries about the exact nature of the Grail, where it might be, and why anyone should look for it.
Potkay carries the story into the modern day with discussions of the popularity of books such as "The Mists of Avalon", "Holy Blood, Holy Grail," and even "The DaVinci Code." There's even a lecture on movies ranging from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" to "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". However familiar (or not) the listener is with the history and legends of the Grail, there is a lot of really terrific information here.
13 of 13 people found this review helpful