Reading Challenges

June 11, 2011

Eternal Chalice: The Grail in Literature & Legend by Monica Brzezinski Potkay

Recently I've discovered a series of audio books entitled The Modern Scholar. Each title in the series is a  course that addresses a specialized topic in history, literature, science or cultural studies through lectures on CD, as well as a book that complements the information provided in the recorded material. Being the Arthurian junkie that I am, I leapt into the course Eternal Chalice: The Grail in Literature and Legend,  written and read by Monica Brzezinski Potkay, a professor of literature at the College of William and Mary.

Beginning with Chr√©tien de Troye's first reference to the Grail in the Medieval romance Perceval ou Le Conte du Graal, Professor Potkay covers the Grail's literary heritage in historic France, Britain and Germany, working up to the Pre-Raphelite's love affair with Arthurian lore in the 19th century, and ending in the present with pop-cultural favorites, such as the Disney film The Sword in the Stone and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, among others. The eight hour course in divided into fourteen lectures and is both a thorough and enjoyable exploration of the origins of the Grail, the evolution of its symbolism and why it is such a lasting topic that continues to generate interest today.

Recently the BBC published an online gallery called The Legend of the Holy Grail. You can view the images, many of which are referenced in this course, HERE.

The official course description of Eternal Chalice is as follows:

The goal of this course is to provide an overview of the many different ways writers of fiction and nonfiction have imagined, and reimagined, the object known as the Grail. 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. 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...

If you're looking for more information on the course, you can visit the Modern Scholar Series page for Eternal Chalice HERE, but if you're looking to purchase a copy, you can find it for half the price on Amazon and even less if you're willing to buy it on audio cassette instead of CD. I don't normally post links to Amazon, but I will do so HERE, so you can easily visit the link if interested. You can also click HERE for the CD version (Amazon in partnership with

Finally, if you're interested in Arthurian lore and literature, I posted about The Mists of Avalon back in December, HERE.

To leave you on a lighter note...behold a group of gallant knights as they endure the archetypal trials and tribulations demanded of any respectable Grail quest: 

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