Mary Zambreno's Why Do Some Stories Keep Returning?

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In this essay, I will not offer an explanation of why people keep retelling, appropriating, and adding to Arthurian legend, because such an answer is far beyond the scope of my knowledge and the size of this essay. It would take at least one penetrating book to begin understanding the scope of that question—which is the reason why Mary Zambreno’s article, “Why Do Some Stories Keep Returning?,” is crippled by its length and loses its grounding by using vague, generalizing definitions to discuss the perpetuity of Arthurian narrative. By opening up Zambreno’s term “gap” and applying possible variations of the term to the context of Chretien’s Lancelot, Knight of the Cart, I hope to introduce the possibility of further scholarship on the ways untold…show more content…
In the context of this specific romance by Chretien, the audience does not know how Guinevere met Lancelot or why they are in love with each other, but Chretien uses the mystery surrounding their relationship to build suspense and to construct Lancelot as a devoutly faithful knight. The omission is used for characterization and plot, and the story stands as a whole without narrative of the first encounter between Lancelot and Guinevere—nor is such an encounter, or any beginning of a relationship, alluded to. Chretien’s audience is not made aware of any gap, and likely doesn’t see the need to fill it. By introducing Lancelot as an anonymous knight urgently questing to rescue Guinevere, the text can build him up as virtuous and loyal, gradually revealing his romantic love for Guinevere until the night they lie in bed together. When Lancelot allows the damsel he would not sleep with to accompany him, the text explains his silence by referencing the “wound [love] has given him,” and notes that “there is one whose remedy he would gladly seek ….” (Vv. 1293–1368). Caesura creates allusion to Guinevere, building up the idea that Lancelot has been hurt by previous romantic involvement with her, yet allowing the audience to draw the conclusion themselves. The mystery and reliance on the reader’s imagination is available because Lancelot and…show more content…
Rather, if authors wish to retell, adapt, or otherwise use the Arthurian legend in their own work, the undeveloped story of Lancelot meeting Guinevere or Gawain’s foiled quest to rescue Guinevere are available places to start. I cannot comment on the relationship of Lancelot to the rest of Arthurian legend, and the types of gaps which exist between these stories, but within Lancelot, any stories not told by Chretien are purposefully left out to serve the story. Lancelot, Knight of the Cart is complete as it stands—indeed, its untold stories occuring before, between, and after scenes are places where its audience can shape the story to be their own. Then perhaps, when the reader is invested in the story and enjoys it, they are inspired to read or create more stories similar to Lancelot, Knight of the
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