In the first episode of the sixth season of the podcast, Scott speaks with Prof. Jennifer G. Wollock, author of the new book Rethinking Chivalry And Courtly Love. She explains how this medieval literary ideal has had a profound impact on modern society, from military doctrines and ethics, to romantic stories of forbidden love and star-crossed passion.
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One of the topics that almost always comes up when you’re talking about the code of chivalry, medieval literature, or the history of knighthood, is courtly love. Often associated with the tragic romance of Lancelot and Guenevere, courtly love is (more generally) defined as sense of passion and attraction between lover and beloved that overcomes obstacles and survives in spite of, or even because of, the impediments that keep lovers apart.
Like the ideals of chivalry, the literature and customs of courtly love are often denounced by scholars as frivolous, decadent, unrealistic, and as a means of romanticizing the repressive social mores of a bygone era. Despite the fact that we’ve spent decades working toward gender equality in politics, family, education, and the workplace, that dynamic of chivalry and courtly love seems to have left a lasting mark on our cultural psyche – you can see its influence in works of literature ranging from Romeo & Juliet to the Twilight series.
So is courtly love an archaic, outdated tradition that’ll be forever attached to the medieval notion of chivalry – or is it an archetypal, organic element of human behavior that reflects the natural patterns of courtship and mating. Where does courtly love come from, why is it such a persistent trope in art, literature, and pop culture, and is there any future for bold gentlemen, distressed damsels, and the customs of courtly love in the 21st century?
In this episode, Scott speaks with author Jennifer G. Wollock to consider (or reconsider) the value of chivalry and courtly love.
Purchase a copy of Rethinking Chivalry And Courtly Love published by Praeger press.