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courtly love and courtliness
  Medieval cademy of merica Courtly Love and CourtlinessAuthor(s): Alexander J. DenomySource: Speculum, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Jan., 1953), pp. 44-63Published by: Medieval Academy of America Stable URL: . Accessed: 24/10/2014 08:13 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at  .  . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact  .  Medieval Academy of America  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Speculum. This content downloaded from on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:13:55 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  COURTLY LOVE AND COURTLINESS* BY ALEXANDER J. DENOMY COURTLY LOVE is a species f that movement nherent n the soul of man towards a desired bject. t is this object, the final bject, which pecifies ove and differ- entiates ts manifestations ne from he other. When the object of love is the pleasure of sense, hen ove is sensual and carnal; directed owards he spiritual, it is mystic, owards person of the opposite sex, sexual, towards God, divine. Courtly Love is a type of sensual love and what distinguishes t from other forms of sexual love, from mere passion, from so-called platonic love, from married ove is its purpose or motive, ts formal object, namely, the lover's progress nd growth n natural goodness, merit, nd worth. That is the very ssence of the ove of the troubadours nd from t are derived those characteristics hat are integral o Courtly ove and are no less important or irrevelant o it than are corollaries o a geometrical roposition. ince sexual love is represented s the sole source of man's ennoblement n earth, then ts practice s incumbent n every one. Since man is worthless nless he acts under the compulsion f love, then no one can be excused from aking n active part in it: marriage, ows, orders, irginity re no bar to it. What is done, moreover, under Love's compulsion annot be sinful r immoral; ather t is virtuous nd righteous s a necessary ource of natural goodness nd- worth. For that very reason the love of the troubadours must be directed owards beloved who is superior, sually in rank but always in worth, o that love of so exalted an object may lift he beloved up, as it were, n the scale of goodness nd virtue o her exalted position. Since complacency n the attainment f the beloved may lead to quiescence n the beloved object and so to satiety, roubadour ove must remain desire, a yearning hat is unappeased. In its purest form, t eschews physical possession because, once consummated, esire decreases and tends to vanish. On the contrary, esire for union is to be intensified, anned, nd in- flamed by every physical delight hort of carnal possession, ecause it is desire which s the means to the end and purpose of Courtly Love: the ennobling f the lover. Despite the sensuality hat such love implies n Christian yes, for the troubadours uch love was spiritual n that it sought ullion of hearts and minds rather han of bodies; t was a virtuous ove in so far as it was the source of all natural virtue nd worth. Such a conception f love differs adically from every other type of sexual love known, elebrated, r taught n the iterature f Western Europe before ts appearance n the lyrics of the Provengal roubadours. n skeleton form, t is the surge of the lover to rise n worth nd virtue owards he beloved through the force nd energy f desire. earch for ts srcins egan practically n the days of the troubadours nd has gone on un'til urs. Scholars have found models and sources for the metrical form nd the genres of poetry of the troubadours n * The text of this paper was read at a session of the Mediaeval Academy of America n Boston on 25 April 1952, 44 This content downloaded from on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:13:55 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  Courtly ove and Courtliness 45 Arabic verse, n Mediaeval Latin poetry, n the liturgical exts of the Church. Their work has been important n locating he models of the vehicles through which he troubadours xpressed heir novel deas; it has left nsolved he srcins of the very kernel f Courtly Love. Other cholars have unearthed tylistic nd textual similarities etween the lyrics f the troubadours nd those of classical authors, Mediaeval Latin lyrics, piritual reatises nd compositions, ven with the Scriptures. hese critics nd historians f literature ave made a notable contribution n showing he iterary eritage f the troubadours nd have empha- sized the catholicity f the anguage of ove whether t be applied to the eroticism of Ovid, the spirituality f the School of Angers, he scurrility f the clerici vagantes, r the mysticism f the Song of Songs. Analogues to the general body of conceits, ormulae nd affectations hat embellish he yrics f the troubadours and their deas have been recorded n Arabic, Mediaeval and Classical Latin literature, ven in Irish. The personification f love as a god with absolute power over his army of lovers, he feudalistic elationship etween he beloved and the over, ove as a sickness with ll its exterior manifestations, he excessive fear of the lover, his humility nd timidity, he haughtiness f the beloved, her disdain and caprice, he secrecy nd furtiveness f the intrigue re not peculiar to Courtly Love but are universally uman and belong to the general fund of love literature. hat a number of motifs the use of a senhal to cloak the identity f the beloved, the threat of gossip, slanderers nd spies, the danger of guards and guardilans are common to the love literature f many lands argues imply he similarity f subject matter. hese are the trappings f Courtly Love, if you will, assimilated o it as they might be to any other onception f sexual ove. They are not peculiar nor essential o the fabric but are, as it were the ncidental mbroidery f Courtly ove. Speculation, esearch, ontroversy ill continue ntil the sources f the essen- tials of Courtly Love are uncovered. The fruits f generations nd centuries f scholarly tudies have produced theories hat have been conveniently rouped under five main headings: ballad, liturgical, lassical Latin, Mediaeval Latin, and Arabic. As far as I know, no one representative r supporter f any single group s willing o accept the theory f the other n whole, nd very few n part When and if the solution omes, am coming more and more to believe that i. will not emerge rom ny single one of these theories but that it will be found that Courtly Love is a synthesis f borrowings nd adaptations made from several sources, hat the troubadours xpressed n their yrics concept of ove that is a union of diverse elements of varied srcins. am sure, for nstance, that he troubadours erived heir eaching f in' amors rom Arabian mysticism and specifically rom ome such tract as the Treatise n Love by Avicenna; that their dea of Jovens s a virtue nd habit arising rom ove has its source n the Arabic utuwwa; hat the troubadours ook their morality f ove from he Arabs and were able to maintain t alongside the norms of Christian morality n the foundation f the so-called double-truth,' tself, n final nalysis, product of the opposition of Muslim theology nd philosophy. am fairly ure that the troubadours uilt their dea of Jois as a habit and virtue resultant pon love This content downloaded from on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:13:55 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  46 Courtly ove and Courtliness upon the Christian eaching of grace and that their preoccupation with death as a result of lack of love harks back to the same teaching. am not as sure, on the other hand, as I once was, that the framework r thought-pattern f Courtly ove is modelled on that which pervaded the philosophical nd hetero- dox religious hought of the age of the troubadours, amely that the soul of man is divine and the chain of deas that such a teaching mplied. t may well be that their onception f sexual ove is a transposition n the natural, ational order f the supernatural ove of man with ll that that train of thought mplies, that their dea that sexual ove is the font nd srcin f all good in this world s modelled n the teaching f the Church hat divine ove or grace s the source of all supernatural ood, merit, nd worth. The expression mour ourtois nd its English ounterpart Courtly ove' must be of comparatively ecent rigin. You will ook for hem n vain in French nd English dictionaries. s far s I know, he expression mour ourtois as used for the first ime by Gaston Paris in 1883.1 The recent ntroduction f these terms into iterary istory nd criticism pparently orresponded o the need felt by historians nd critics f qualifying he type of ove introduced nto iterature y the Provengal roubadours. he troubadours hemselves elt no such need. They speak ndeed of courtly eeds and speech, f courtly ersons, f courtly ime nd counsel, f courtly ands and the courtly easons of the year, but only once have I encountered he expression mors orteza n their yrics.2 or the troubadours, the love they njoined nd professed eeded no such qualification; t was simply love in its purest orm. f, at times, hey characterized t as true, pure, nd good (veraia, ina, bona), t was only to point up its opposition o and distinction rom perfidious ust and from phemeral nd insincere ove (falsa). When, hen, Gaston Paris qualified heir conception f love as courtois, e did something hat would have seemed uperfluous o the troubadours, omething hat ikely never ccurred to them. Given the terms, however, poesie courtoise, oman courtois, itterature courtoise, mour ourtois eemed natural nough qualification. The trouble s that courtois r courtly' s applied to literature, o poetry, o the romance, has not the same connotation r, at least, should not have as ap- plied to love. Applied to the former, ourtly as the essential meaning f belong- ing to, emanating rom, or and in a court. t is a literature f courts, court literature ealing with courtliness nd embodying ts ethical and social ideals. In the sense that the troubadour yrics enter bout these same courts nd in- corporate many such ideals, in just that measure do they belong to courtly literature, nd are therefore, abeled courtly yrics. But applied to love, courtly 1 Etudes sur les romans de la Table Ronde. Lancelot du Lac, II: La conte de la Charette,' Ro- mania, xii (1883), 519. 2 Mas so non pot remaner cortez' amors de bon aire don mi ais esser maire. Die Lieder Peires von Auvergne, v, 57-59, ed. Rudolf Zenker Erlangen, 1900), p. 124. Cf. also amistat orteza, uilhem Ademar, iii, e0, ed. Kurt Almqvist, o6Mes du troubadour uilhem d6mar (Uppsala, 1951), p. 160. This content downloaded from on Fri, 24 Oct 2014 08:13:55 AMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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