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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Origins of Courtly Love

Increasing literacy did not only mean the production of philosophical works. In 1130-36 Geoffrey of Monmouth assembled his History of the Kings of Britain, containing stories of King Arthur based on Celtic legend. A few decades later Chretien de Troyes used the same material to tell the story of Perceval, which linked the Arthurian romances to the search of Holy Grail. These stories captured and helped to create the culture of chivalry, of courtly love and Christian romance that became the ideal self-image of European nobility and gentry for centuries to come. The key elements of this literature were bravery as an ideal end in itself (the knights were not fighting to defend heir homeland but were going out to seek adventure), and the idealization of love between a man and a woman. In a clear urban alternative to boorishness of rural warrior barons, the restrictions of church literature, love became exquisitely refined, and was often adulterous- Lancelot, the principal hero of the Round Table, was created in order to give the Queen an illicit object of idealized love. Although this code of love was a highly artificial creation, largely inspired by Iberian Arabic tradition, it was taken to be a natural phenomenon in the west for the next 800 or so years. - Roger Osborne (from the book- Civilization)

Happy Valentine's day! :-)