Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love

Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love

Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love

Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love


"Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love" shows that these two interlinked medieval era concepts are best understood in light of each other. It is the first book to explore the multicultural origins of chivalry and courtly love in tandem, tracing their sources back to the ancient world, then follow their development--separately and together--through medieval life and literature.

In addition to examining the history of chivalry and courtly love, this remarkable volume looks at their enduring legacy--not just in popular media but in molding our present-day concepts of human rights, professional ethics, military conduct, and gender relations. Readers will see how understanding the tenets of the chivalrous life helps us understand our own world today.


A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, freedom and curteisie.

Chaucer, general prologue to the Canterbury Tales

You love her with a courtly love, a love that is based on bravery and cour
tesy and honor and devotion.

Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

Chivalry is still a magical word in Western civilization, but one that is still too often misunderstood. A subject of scholarly interest for centuries, it has today, for better or worse, become—as Ramon Llull wished in 1283—“a science written and read in schools, like as are the other sciences.” The term itself has been used to mean everything from a collective noun denoting knights (armored mounted warriors) as a social class, to the ideal of conduct developed for that class, to the imitation of that ideal by others from across the social order. Chivalry is by no means a subject confined to the Middle Ages. It has continually been adapted, revived, and criticized down to the present. Chivalry, together with its nearly inseparable companion, courtly love, today seems—at least on the academic and political levels—to be making the latest in what appears to be a long series of comebacks, after a rather dark period in their collective history; the popular level is always another story. This book attempts, once again, to reinterpret the phenomenon of chivalry, its fortune, and its impact.

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