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By Jonathan Ullyot

Jonathan Ullyot's The Medieval Presence in Modernist Literature rethinks the impact that early medieval experiences and Grail narratives had on modernist literature. via interpreting numerous canonical works, from Henry James' The Golden Bowl to Samuel Beckett's Molloy, Ullyot argues that those texts function a continuation of the Grail legend encouraged through medieval scholarship of the overdue 19th and early 20th centuries. instead of adapt the tale of the Grail, modernist writers deliberately didn't make the Grail fantasy cohere, hence critiquing the way in which a literary paintings establishes its authority through alluding to past traditions. whereas the hunt to fail is a modernist ethic usually misconceived as a pessimistic reaction to the cave in of conventional humanism, the modernist writings of Eliot, Kafka, and Céline posit that the opportunity of redemption offers itself in basic terms whilst wish has eventually been deserted.

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O. 11 The Golden Bowl is also suffused with the language and tropes of medieval romance. The characters long for adventure and liken themselves to explorers discovering new worlds and looking for buried treasures; they elevate a day of antiquing or a search for someone in a drawing room to a quest; they sense hideous dangers lurking behind a game of bridge; they compare one another to medieval coins, Gothic churches, precious vessels, and other relics; they imagine themselves to be living in castles surrounded by fabulous palaces, rotundas, temples, and pagodas.

It is not just a metaphor for Amerigo, but a metaphor for the fact that Amerigo does not ask questions, that he “accepts” everything. Or, more precisely: Instead of asking questions about this very strange or “cracked” image of himself as a smooth crystal, Amerigo accepts it and displaces his anxiety about whether the image accurately applies to him by adding a flaw to the image itself. This is a variation, if not repetition, of Amerigo’s thought process in the first book: accepting Maggie’s description of her father’s valuation of him as one of his possessions; then (irrationally) worrying about what his “worth” might be as an antique; then projecting that anxiety onto Charlotte as one of his own former possessions; and finally The Golden Bowl and the Holy Grail 37 being confronted by an uncanny manifestation of his metaphorical self as a cracked or flawed antique in the golden bowl.

Amerigo has come to think of himself as an antique, and subsequently worries that he might be flawed. When he attempts to assert his autonomy and “do something for himself” (like Perceval), he happens to go into a store where an old man shows him an image of himself. The shopkeeper is not only a collector of (flawed) objets d’art like Adam, but he also seems to be a double of Amerigo’s real father: he mysteriously speaks perfect Italian, even though he claims to be English. Like Perceval, Amerigo is paralyzed The Golden Bowl and the Holy Grail 33 and reduced to almost silence.

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