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The Perceval Professorship in Medieval Romance, Historiography, and Culture


The Perceval Professorship in Medieval Romance, Historiography, and Culture was established by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System in 2007, and was upgraded to a professorship in 2009, to benefit The University of Texas College of Liberal Arts. Funding was provided by an anonymous donor.

The professorship is named for Sir Perceval, one of King Arthur’s original legendary Knights of the Round Table. The story of Perceval, written by Chrétien de Troyes sometime between 1135 and 1190, tells of the adventures and growing pains of the young knight Perceval. There are some 9,000 lines to Perceval, the Story of the Grail, which breaks off mid-sentence because de Troyes died suddenly while writing it. Later authors added more than 54,000 lines in what are collectively known as the Four Continuations.

In the original poem, Perceval is raised in the woods by his mother before seeing a group of knights pass through the forest. Wanting to become a knight himself, Perceval leaves his mother for King Arthur’s court, where he proves himself and is knighted. On one of his adventures, he meets the Wounded King and sees a grail, but he fails to ask a question that would have healed the injured king. Upon learning of his mistake, he vows to find the castle again and fulfill his quest, but the story breaks off soon after.

The story of Perceval is the earliest account of what was to become the Quest for the Holy Grail. Though Perceval is replaced in later literature by Galahad, he is known as the original hero in the quest for the Holy Grail.

Geraldine Heng currently holds this endowed professorship. Heng’s research focuses on literary, cultural, and social encounters between worlds and webs of exchange and negotiation between communities and cultures. She currently is completing monographs on premodern race and racial-religious difference, and medieval England as a global site, traced through its literature.

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