Medieval Venuses and Cupids: Sexuality, Hermeneutics, and English Poetry

Medieval Venuses and Cupids: Sexuality, Hermeneutics, and English Poetry

Medieval Venuses and Cupids: Sexuality, Hermeneutics, and English Poetry

Medieval Venuses and Cupids: Sexuality, Hermeneutics, and English Poetry

Synopsis

This book establishes the range of meanings bestowed on the love deities through the later Middle Ages, and draws on feminist and cultural theories to offer new models for interpreting both academic Latin discourses and vernacular poetry.

Excerpt

She is all there.
She was melted carefully down for you
and cast up from your childhood,
cast up from your one hundred favorite aggies.

. . .

She is so naked and singular.
She is the sum of yourself and your dream.
Climb her like a monument, step after step.
She is solid.

As for me, I am a watercolor.
I wash off.

Anne Sexton,
"For My Lover, Returning to His Wife"

As the antients agree, brother Toby, said my father, that there are two different and distinct kinds of love, according to the different parts which are affected by it--the Brain or Liver--I think when a man is in love, it behoves him a little to consider which of the two he is fallen into.

Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy

Because Venus and Cupid so often change form and role in the Middle Ages, they challenge literary critics trying to decipher the nuances and implications of any particular representation. In response to this challenge, readings of Venus and Cupid have for the most part settled into two schools: the deities have for decades been almost universally explicated as symbols of "courtly love" or of "two loves" ("good" and "evil," either one of which may also be "courtly"). There are other valuable interpre-

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