Thursday, February 7, 2008

To follow up on our discussion of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, below is a posting for an upcoming 4-week short class on Parzival and the Quest for the Grail. If you're interested in Arthurian legend, read on.


and the Quest for the Grail

A class taught by Jay Leeming

Parzival is the story of how a simple boy succeeds in healing his entire kingdom by finding the mysterious castle of the Grail, a castle that “cannot be found by those who seek it.” It is one of the central myths of our culture, a myth which we continue to live through in both our foreign policy and our daily lives. Celtic in origin, it begins with a single mother’s attempts to keep her son safe from a violent world in which the forces of Islam and Christianity are in deadly conflict. The resolution of the story requires the healing of this conflict, and the opening of Parzival’s heart to the sufferings of others and of the natural world. It is a story in which the earth herself comes to King Arthur’s court as a mule-riding Goddess with boar’s teeth and braided eyebrows; in which not simply heroic deeds but also failure and grief are ways to move forward; in which the Grail is guarded by a wounded King fishing from a jeweled boat.

A story such as Parzival is like a wild animal that, if we are willing to nourish it, will enter our lives and infuse them with a greater sense of depth and meaning. It is a map drawn by the generations that have preceded us, containing knowledge with which we may heal both ourselves and our communities. It is a landscape often best entered with others, where we may find underground rivers and bramble-covered walls of stone, where we may discover jugs of wine, turquoise necklaces and a snow-filled forest reflected in a falcon’s eye.

This workshop will focus on experiencing the myth of Parzival in the old way, as a story spoken aloud. Jay Leeming will tell the story in four parts, and along the way participants will be invited to engage with the story through a variety of creative means including discussion and writing. We will also read selections from Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s 13th-century version of the myth, exploring the mix of Celtic, Christian and Sufi cultures out of which this ancient poem has been cooked. We will move through the story together, using our varying perspectives to deepen our relation to it and to our own lives.

Sundays, 2:30-4:00, February 24th to March 16th

Downtown Ithaca Cost: $50

To register, call (607) 273-6325 or send an e-mail to:

Jay Leeming is the author of the book of poems Dynamite on a China Plate and a long-time student of mythology. His poems have appeared in the Gettysburg Review, Ploughshares, Rattapallax and Poetry East, and been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac on NPR. He has taught and read poetry at Butler University, the Woodstock Poetry Festival, Robert Bly’s Great Mother Conference and the International Centre for World Spiritualities in Edinburgh, Scotland.

“Here begin the terrors, here begin the miracles”

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