Courtly Love

courtly love, philosophy of love and code of lovemaking that flourished in France and England during the Middle Ages. Although its origins are obscure, it probably derived from the works of Ovid, various Middle Eastern ideas popular at the time, and the songs of the troubadours. According to the code, a man falls passionately in love with a married woman of equal or higher rank. Before his love can be declared, he must suffer long months of silence; before it can be consummated, he must prove his devotion by noble service and daring exploits. The lovers eventually pledge themselves to secrecy and to remain faithful despite all obstacles. In reality, courtly love was little more than a set of rules for committing adultery. It was more important as a literary invention, expressed in such works as Chrétien de Troyes's Lancelot (12th cent.), Guillaume de Lorris's Roman de la Rose (13th cent.), and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde (14th cent.). In these works it was the subjective presentation of the lovers' passion for each other and their consideration for other people that transformed the code of courtly love into one of the most important literary influences in Western culture. See chivalry.

See J. M. Ferrante and G. D. Economou, ed., In Pursuit of Perfection: Courtly Love in Medieval Literature (1975); N. B. Smith and J. T. Snow, ed., The Expansion and Transformation of Courtly Literature (1980).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Courtly Love: Selected full-text books and articles

Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love By Jennifer G. Wollock Praeger, 2011
The Challenge of the Medieval Text: Studies in Genre and Interpretation By W. T. H. Jackson; Joan M. Ferrante; Robert W. Hanning Columbia University Press, 1985
Librarian's tip: Part One "Courtly Love"
French Chivalry: Chivalric Ideas and Practices in Mediaeval France By Sidney Painter Johns Hopkins Press, 1940
Librarian's tip: Chap. IV "Courtly Love"
Music & Poetry in the Early Tudor Court By John E. Stevens Methuen, 1961
Librarian's tip: Part Two "Courtly Love and the Courtly Lyric"
Romantic Medievalism: History and the Romantic Literary Ideal By Elizabeth A. Fay Palgrave, 2002
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of courtly love in multiple chapters
An Introduction to Medieval Romance By A. B. Taylor Heath, Cranton, 1930
Librarian's tip: Includes discussion of courtly love in multiple chapters
Medieval Venuses and Cupids: Sexuality, Hermeneutics, and English Poetry By Theresa Tinkle Stanford University Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: "Courtly Love" begins on p. 10
Nature and Love in the Late Middle Ages By Aldo D. Scaglione University of California Press, 1963
Librarian's tip: "Courtly Love" begins on p. 15
Elizabethan Love Conventions By Lu Emily Pearson University of California Press, 1933
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Chaucer and Courtly Love Conventions"
The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200 By C. Stephen Jaeger University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994
Librarian's tip: "Courtly Love" begins on p. 310
The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard By Etienne Gilson; A. H. C. Downes Sheed Sheed & Ward, 1940
Librarian's tip: "St. Bernard and Courtly Love" begins on p. 170
Women and Writing in Medieval Europe: A Sourcebook By Carolyne Larrington Routledge, 1995
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "The Dangers of Courtly Love"
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