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The Representation of Visual Reality in Perceval and Parzival

Annemarie E. Mahler
PMLA
Vol. 89, No. 3 (May, 1974), pp. 537-550
DOI: 10.2307/461590
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/461590
Page Count: 14
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The Representation of Visual Reality in Perceval and Parzival
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Abstract

The image projected in the reader's mind by an author's description offers a basis for comparison with the visual arts. Art historical criteria are applied to equivalent descriptions-a portrait, an architectural complex, and a scene involving motion-in the Perceval of Chrestien de Troyes and the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach. Chrestien's traditional rhetorical portrait of Blancheflor is a still, frontal, symmetrical image; his description of chastel merveile gives meticulous surface detail but instead of a logical spatial connection the parts are simply juxtaposed in the plane; Gavain's fight with the lion shows no real motion but breaks down into a series of still vignettes which represent rather than show the action. On the other hand, Wolfram's portrait of Condwiramurs is glimpsed from various angles and distances as she moves through space; Schastel Marveile is vaguely described but spatially self-consistent; motion in Gawan's lion fight is continuous in both space and time. Thus Chrestien's descriptions relate to the dominant tradition of medieval art which shows figures and objects in characteristic poses or arrangements outlined in the plane, Wolfram's to that uncommon strain which attempts to cope with natural relationships, particularly those of volumes in space.

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