Document Type


Date of Award



Chrétien, de Troyes, active 12th century, Érec et Énide, Romances, Criticism and interpretation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Zack Bowen

Second Advisor

Bernard F. Huppe

Third Advisor

Bernard S. Levy




Little is known about Chrétien de Troyes the man. Whatever is said about him as an individual or about the order and date of his writings is entirely a matter of conjecture, for there is virtually no evidence except for the little offered by the poems themselves. While Chrétien's life's history is lost, his work remains. To value Chrétien's work, it must first be understood, and understanding will derive primarily from careful attention to the poetry itself; the focus of this study will be on Chrétien's earliest and most frequently misunderstood work, Erec et Enide. The perplexity surrounding the poem owes much to its curious structure, a structure most readily brought out through a brief summary of the plot.

Both structurally and thematically Chrétien's Erec et Enide is a complex piece, interlacing through its significant use of reversals the interdependent concepts of the use and abuse of words and of things in presenting the development of an ideal hero-king and his queen. This study hopes to demonstrate the unity under-lying that complexity while sensitive always to the work as twelfth century poem.