Chrétien de Troyes’ Lancelot, ou le Chevalier de la Charrette: Courtly Love
© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston
Reason for embargo
“Courtly love” has long been a term medievalists cannot live with, yet cannot live without. It famously first appeared – in the French form amour courtois – towards the end of the nineteenth century in a two-part article by Gaston Paris (1881/1883), in the context of a discussion of the love between Lancelot and Guenevere in Chrétien de Troyes’ Le Chevalier de la charrette. As argued by Hult (1996), Paris’s coinage answered a set of disciplinary, ideological and personal concerns specific to a late nineteenth-century (French, male) scholar of medieval literature; the formulation is relatively rare in medieval texts themselves. The scholar’s fear of anachronism is reflected in the widespread tendency to couch the term in scare quotes, keeping it at one remove – certain critics have even gone so far as to repudiate the concept altogether as an unhelpful modern invention. However, Boase (1977) has demonstrated the longevity of scholarly discussion of a distinctive and influential treatment of love originating in certain medieval vernacular texts, stretching back to Italian humanists in the sixteenth century. Then as now, the primary material from which evidence was gleaned was chivalric romance, especially that written in French, and the Occitan lyric poetry of the troubadours. The Charrette itself was invoked as early as 1647 in Jean Chapelain’s dialogue La lecture des vieux romans, where one character argues that the text is ‘une représentation naïve, et une histoire certaine et exacte des moeurs qui régnaient dans les Cours d’alors” [a naïve representation, and a true and exact account of the mores that obtained in the courts of that time]; above all, Lancelot’s love is singled out for its sincerity and intensity: “Lancelot ne joue pas l’amoureux, il l’est véritablement” [Lancelot does not act the part of lover, he truly is one] (Boase 1977, 12). The relationship between Arthur’s champion and his queen has thus long been at the centre of discussion of courtly love – henceforth I happily throw off the scare quotes – and continues to act as a touchstone for treatments of the subject. [...]
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from De Gruyter via the URL in this record.
In Handbook of Arthurian Romance: King Arthur’s Court in Medieval European Literature. Editors: Tether L, McFadyen J.