Munro’s Grail Quest: The Progress of Logos

Klaus P. Stich


Passing references to the medieval period, the court of King Arthur, the quest for the Holy Grail, and the Bible abound in the fiction of Alice Munro. These often coincide with female characters’ quests for individuation and wholeness within the constraining atmosphere of patriarchy. These quests regularly take the form of writerly and readerly self-exploration, where the creative word is key. Munro approaches logos (the creative word, thought, deed, light) as an open, Grail-like symbol rather than the revealed truth of religious convention and authority. Many of her characters, such as Del Jordan of Lives of Girls and Women, Louisa of “Carried Away,” and Edith of “Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage,” use literary autodidacticism to embark on process-oriented quests of self-discovery, reformulating Horace’s dictum carpe diem to carpe verbum (“seize the word”).

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