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The Art of Courtly Love

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After becoming popularized by the troubadours of southern France in the 12th century, the social system of courtly love soon spread. Evidence of the influence of courtly love in the culture & literature of most of western Europe spans centuries. This unabridged edition of codifies life at Queen Eleanor's court at Poitiers between 1170 & 1174 into 'one of those capital work After becoming popularized by the troubadours of southern France in the 12th century, the social system of courtly love soon spread. Evidence of the influence of courtly love in the culture & literature of most of western Europe spans centuries. This unabridged edition of codifies life at Queen Eleanor's court at Poitiers between 1170 & 1174 into 'one of those capital works which reflect the thought of a great epoch, which explain the secret of a civilization.' This translation of a work that may be viewed as didactic, mocking or merely descriptive, preserves the attitudes & practices that were the foundation of a long & significant tradition in English literature.


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After becoming popularized by the troubadours of southern France in the 12th century, the social system of courtly love soon spread. Evidence of the influence of courtly love in the culture & literature of most of western Europe spans centuries. This unabridged edition of codifies life at Queen Eleanor's court at Poitiers between 1170 & 1174 into 'one of those capital work After becoming popularized by the troubadours of southern France in the 12th century, the social system of courtly love soon spread. Evidence of the influence of courtly love in the culture & literature of most of western Europe spans centuries. This unabridged edition of codifies life at Queen Eleanor's court at Poitiers between 1170 & 1174 into 'one of those capital works which reflect the thought of a great epoch, which explain the secret of a civilization.' This translation of a work that may be viewed as didactic, mocking or merely descriptive, preserves the attitudes & practices that were the foundation of a long & significant tradition in English literature.

30 review for The Art of Courtly Love

  1. 5 out of 5

    Heather Fowler

    I love to read books that are hundreds of years old--and found this primer in the art of courtly love completely charming in social contexts of the author's day and the mixed antiquity and continuously applicable essentials of the ideas. That said, being that Capellanus was a chaplain, the last passage is clearly meant to confuse and put off his detractors. To baffle or dance around what the main text does. I like to read the volume as one man who desires to examine lascivious interaction via th I love to read books that are hundreds of years old--and found this primer in the art of courtly love completely charming in social contexts of the author's day and the mixed antiquity and continuously applicable essentials of the ideas. That said, being that Capellanus was a chaplain, the last passage is clearly meant to confuse and put off his detractors. To baffle or dance around what the main text does. I like to read the volume as one man who desires to examine lascivious interaction via the raised platform of instruction, even going so far as to discuss a number of scenarios about what possibilities there may be (or have been) between different classes of lovers-- and then, at the tail end, putting his robes back on for a final summation that tongue in cheek realigns himself with those for whom he must appear to suit his station. Mixed message books always entertain me. Of course, so do views into the psyches of lovers. If you are female, my advice is simple: Enjoy all parts of the book except the final summary, which will piss you off since it replays that old ideology that the woman destroys everyhing and is untrustworthy--EVE in the garden. I was intrigued by many elements of the text: expected behaviors for widows, an articulated archaic version of "The Rules," a sort of textual dance between off-putting conduct and desire, and a commentary on what kinds of love may be experienced by whom and how. Ha. Great fun. :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jenny T

    Love, per Andreas Capellanus in the 13th Century, is defined as "a certain inborn suffering derived from the sight of and excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex..." This book is comprised of instructions on "how love may be acquired, retained, increased, decreased, and ended." As it was written in the 1200's (by a chaplain!) the book now comes across as dated, sexist, amusing, and guaranteed to raise an eyebrow. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as it puts a whole new spin on the modern Love, per Andreas Capellanus in the 13th Century, is defined as "a certain inborn suffering derived from the sight of and excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex..." This book is comprised of instructions on "how love may be acquired, retained, increased, decreased, and ended." As it was written in the 1200's (by a chaplain!) the book now comes across as dated, sexist, amusing, and guaranteed to raise an eyebrow. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as it puts a whole new spin on the modern idea of "courtly love."

  3. 5 out of 5

    WordsAreMyForte

    Yay, more misogyny!!! I skipped through a lot of this, but oh damn that last part was just laying on the anti-woman agenda so thick. The two stars isn't even because of the misogyny (we all know that men of the past were not the best) BUT the structure of this is so long-winded. This entire book is a didactic trap, claiming to teach you what's on the title, meanwhile having a secret agenda against it that is only revealed towards the end. Yay, more misogyny!!! I skipped through a lot of this, but oh damn that last part was just laying on the anti-woman agenda so thick. The two stars isn't even because of the misogyny (we all know that men of the past were not the best) BUT the structure of this is so long-winded. This entire book is a didactic trap, claiming to teach you what's on the title, meanwhile having a secret agenda against it that is only revealed towards the end.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    The most interesting part of this book was wondering how seriously I should take it. On the one hand, here is a system that so clearly shows itself in widespread literature of the day and for hundreds of year afterwards. But on the other hand it seems to run counter to social order, institutional order, and just plain common sense and realistic-ness, as can be best exemplified in the juxtaposition of book 3 to the preceding two books. There was a lot there that directly contracts itself, such as The most interesting part of this book was wondering how seriously I should take it. On the one hand, here is a system that so clearly shows itself in widespread literature of the day and for hundreds of year afterwards. But on the other hand it seems to run counter to social order, institutional order, and just plain common sense and realistic-ness, as can be best exemplified in the juxtaposition of book 3 to the preceding two books. There was a lot there that directly contracts itself, such as "all good in the world comes from that which is done in the name of a lover's lady, she being the 'prime mover' of all that is good and upstanding in society" and "lovers are totally useless men and nothing except literally every kind of evil, sin and vice comes from women and the suit of their love." The introduction says that not much changes in the view we have of the author between books 1/2 and book 3, but I disagree. I almost think that the author has been tongue in cheek, or, as he actually claims, expounding on a topic for fancy, up until book 3, in which he then snaps back to reality and craps all over the whole project up until that point. To be clear, I don't think he's sincerely in one camp or the other, but I am unable to place what he is actually serious about and what he's not. I am also thinking, since the ingredients to this book definitely include some degree of satire, how plausible the premise of Don Quixote actually is, where someone with a couple hundred years of removal gets their paws on a book such as this, takes the courtly love tradition at face value, and honestly attempts to emulate it. Previous translators, as mentioned in the introduction, saw the satire in it, were amused by it, and laughed at it, but given the inherent ambiguity that I'm sure contemporary social context would have made clear at the time of its initial writing, it almost makes Don Quixote seem much more reasonable in his absurdity.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Emilee

    Ach. Damn you, mores and beliefs of the 12th century! However much I hated the belief system in The Art of Courtly Love (Or, How to Pretend Women have Agency While Giving Them Absolutely None), I actually really enjoyed the writing and dialogue.

  6. 4 out of 5

    m

    I feel like this quote gives you a good impression of what this book is like..."blindness is a bar to love, because a blind man cannot see anything upon which his mind can reflect immoderately, and so love cannot arise in him" I feel like this quote gives you a good impression of what this book is like..."blindness is a bar to love, because a blind man cannot see anything upon which his mind can reflect immoderately, and so love cannot arise in him"

  7. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    Horribly sexist and yet utterly hilarious if you don't take it too seriously. Horribly sexist and yet utterly hilarious if you don't take it too seriously.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lars

    Interesting mix of good advice for aspiring courtly lovers dotted with sarcastic jibes at the same people. Read for a class on Medieval Culture at UTSA.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Shaun

    Hard to rate this book in normal terms. Certainly an influential work that documents an important concept in Western though, that of Love. But also highly, highly problematic. The text is extremely misogynistic and ableist, and should really be read as a historical document rather than a doctrine by which to live your life. Read in conjunction with a Medieval Lit class on Courtly Love. Proves extremely useful for that context. Would recommend for anyone interested in the historical evolution of Hard to rate this book in normal terms. Certainly an influential work that documents an important concept in Western though, that of Love. But also highly, highly problematic. The text is extremely misogynistic and ableist, and should really be read as a historical document rather than a doctrine by which to live your life. Read in conjunction with a Medieval Lit class on Courtly Love. Proves extremely useful for that context. Would recommend for anyone interested in the historical evolution of Love as a concept, as well as anyone interested in medieval literature more generally.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Svendsen

    Read this for historical insight into the time period. As an added bonus, I read some things that made me laugh rather loudly. My favorite was the part at the end where they explained VERY thoroughly why women are incapable of returning a man’s love by reason of the many vices all women are prey to. It was the most absurd sexist rot I’ve read in a while, but as I said, great insight into the time period.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Olga

    full of archaic ideas and fancy language. but personally I learned about the aspects of middle ages I have never known about, so I'm satisfied. full of archaic ideas and fancy language. but personally I learned about the aspects of middle ages I have never known about, so I'm satisfied.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Amalea

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Capellanus offers a detailed insight into courtly customs pertaining to love; it’s funny, but by the end, he refuted everything.

  13. 5 out of 5

    маја

    the second half of this also known as the incel manifesto.. what happened man? who hurt you?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Aubry Andersen

    As a historical reference, this book is very important. It encompasses attitudes of the 12th century French courts--purest love is both illicit and wonderful, peasants make love like beasts, and women can't ever be trusted. The book really shows how "love" was such a foreign thing in Medieval Europe. "Love" could never be associated with marriage. Yet "The Rules of Love" are timeless, like "He who is not jealous cannot love" or "A new love puts to flight an old one." That said, by modern palates, As a historical reference, this book is very important. It encompasses attitudes of the 12th century French courts--purest love is both illicit and wonderful, peasants make love like beasts, and women can't ever be trusted. The book really shows how "love" was such a foreign thing in Medieval Europe. "Love" could never be associated with marriage. Yet "The Rules of Love" are timeless, like "He who is not jealous cannot love" or "A new love puts to flight an old one." That said, by modern palates, the book is very dry and dated, being over 700 years old. It's very funny if taken in context, but downright offensive if not. This especially applies to Book III, where the author goes on, in excruciating detail, about how awful women are: "Every woman in the world is likewise wanton, because no woman, no matter how famous and honored she is, will refuse her embraces to any man, even the most vile and abject, if she knows that he is good at the work of Venus; yet there is no man so good at the work that he can satisfy the desires of any woman you please in any way at all." So, don't read this expecting any universal truths about love and relationships. Only read this if you're genuinely interested a 12th century perspective (which is probably a given, because I doubt this appears in the self help section of any book store). As for the translation, it's from 1960, so it's a little wordy, but it's probably truer to the source material than a contemporary translation would be.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Mark Beaulieu

    A fine resource. I was required to read this blasted thing in college at UT Austin. This is some stiff reading. There are clearly a few references to real events, but the text is some kind of digest/abridgment of suitor-speak into classes. The narrative voice reads like someone is making a legal case book - for there are many cross-references to decisions and proofs settled. The 31 rules of love and the chief 13 rules are worth contemplation. (Marriage is no excuse for not loving - a favorite a A fine resource. I was required to read this blasted thing in college at UT Austin. This is some stiff reading. There are clearly a few references to real events, but the text is some kind of digest/abridgment of suitor-speak into classes. The narrative voice reads like someone is making a legal case book - for there are many cross-references to decisions and proofs settled. The 31 rules of love and the chief 13 rules are worth contemplation. (Marriage is no excuse for not loving - a favorite axiom). After 14 years of research I believe Andreas Capellanus began this work as some kind of notebook in Eleanor of Aquitaine's court around 1170, the year Becket is assassinated. Europe is at war with an insurrection against Henri II when dates of this work and and stories of Chretien of Troyes surface. Clearly Eleanor’s daughter Marie of Champagne has picked up her mother’s efforts and offered safe haven for Andreas and Chretien to complete their works. Interestingly, after Andreas writes theories of personal love, love-dialogs between the three classes, and fantasy stories about how the rules of love came into being – the final chapter is a denouncement of the whole work, perhaps written many years later at the behest of the church as inquisitions rise against Cathars, free-thinkers, and secular thought. Two crosses up.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Micah Genest

    Many people seem to be missing the irony/joke. Andreas Capellanus isn’t making a serious claim to what courtly love entails, nor the guidelines to accomplishing it appropriately. Much like the later 18th century when artists and readers alike became annoyed by the literature of sensibility, Laurence Stern’s “A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy” and Henry Mackenzie’s “The Man of Feeling” were created to mock people’s obsession with their overindulgence in their feelings (i.e. pulling o Many people seem to be missing the irony/joke. Andreas Capellanus isn’t making a serious claim to what courtly love entails, nor the guidelines to accomplishing it appropriately. Much like the later 18th century when artists and readers alike became annoyed by the literature of sensibility, Laurence Stern’s “A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy” and Henry Mackenzie’s “The Man of Feeling” were created to mock people’s obsession with their overindulgence in their feelings (i.e. pulling out one’s hair, fainting, beating one’s chest). Capellanus has a similar agenda. He is making fun of people who have so long obsessed with Ovid’s Amores, in which in itself has some quite destructive lessons on love. He is taking a jab at people who believe that love can be understood as something logical and deductive. Of course it can’t. Love is anything but logical; it sends knights to their death, simply for the taste of an all curing medicine, which then results in the consumer to grow bored soon after tasting it, only to seek the next fix. In any event, an interesting read into the mind of an individual who was so ahead of his time and tricked the minds of his contemporaries (which even Chaucer, 200 years later in the Knight’s Tale, was still trying to put forth), as well as people still to this day.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liss Carmody

    Fascinating and eminently re-readable, I think. This reads like the Redbook of the twelfth century, giving rules and guidance for how to attract a woman's love, how one should behave as a lover, and what to do when love is waning or ending. Purportedly written at the insistence of Marie de Champagne, one of the great advocates of the Courtly Love system fashionable in the 1180s, it conveys a process of thought that is heavily shaped by women, yet still displays glaring double standards about mal Fascinating and eminently re-readable, I think. This reads like the Redbook of the twelfth century, giving rules and guidance for how to attract a woman's love, how one should behave as a lover, and what to do when love is waning or ending. Purportedly written at the insistence of Marie de Champagne, one of the great advocates of the Courtly Love system fashionable in the 1180s, it conveys a process of thought that is heavily shaped by women, yet still displays glaring double standards about male and female conduct here and there. The final section, on the renunciation of love, completely contradicts everything covered in the main treatise, and seems to better suit the opinions of the Chaplain who writes the text than everything that comes before. It's eye-rolling in the extreme, but the earlier sections are a specific and interesting look into a set of morals and values that are precise, but definitely different than ours today. I also especially liked the made-up dialogues between lovers of various social classes.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Matt Sautman

    As a piece of historical writing, this book is quite fascinating, as it not only seeks to define what love is (albeit from a misogynistic, cisgendered religious-centric viewpoint), but it provides a gateway into attitudes of an era separated from the present by nearly a thousand years. The weakest portions of the book can be traced to the dialogues concerning love, which are a series of discussions meant to instruct the reader on how to woo women of certain classes based upon the man's backgroun As a piece of historical writing, this book is quite fascinating, as it not only seeks to define what love is (albeit from a misogynistic, cisgendered religious-centric viewpoint), but it provides a gateway into attitudes of an era separated from the present by nearly a thousand years. The weakest portions of the book can be traced to the dialogues concerning love, which are a series of discussions meant to instruct the reader on how to woo women of certain classes based upon the man's background. The privilege of the author is made prevalent in other portions of the text, but it is here where it is the most off-putting. Thankfully there are gems hidden within the section, such as the allegory of Love's Palace, that make reading these dour portions well worth the invested time.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicky

    It's pretty shocking I haven't read this already, since I've done so many modules on King Arthur, modules that otherwise involve "courtly love", etc. It's a highly stylised account of love, including a brief Arthurian romance, and shouldn't probably be taken too seriously as a historical document. Still, it is useful to reflect on for the literature and thought of the period, and as one of the influences on later courtly love romances, and the introduction with this edition is pretty useful too. It's pretty shocking I haven't read this already, since I've done so many modules on King Arthur, modules that otherwise involve "courtly love", etc. It's a highly stylised account of love, including a brief Arthurian romance, and shouldn't probably be taken too seriously as a historical document. Still, it is useful to reflect on for the literature and thought of the period, and as one of the influences on later courtly love romances, and the introduction with this edition is pretty useful too. The translation is easy to read, although sometimes oddly colloquial. I don't know how accurate it is -- but you're probably stuck with it, I've never found a different edition.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    There are some nuggets of advice in here that in the context of today's courtship rituals are hilarious. A few passages made me laugh out loud, such as the bit that states that a woman who accepts a gift from a man without any intentions to reciprocate in some manner is no different from a prostitute. The blatant misogyny is so pervasive it loops back around to being comical, and if you enjoy medieval literature I think you will find this illuminating and enjoyable so long as you don't take it t There are some nuggets of advice in here that in the context of today's courtship rituals are hilarious. A few passages made me laugh out loud, such as the bit that states that a woman who accepts a gift from a man without any intentions to reciprocate in some manner is no different from a prostitute. The blatant misogyny is so pervasive it loops back around to being comical, and if you enjoy medieval literature I think you will find this illuminating and enjoyable so long as you don't take it too seriously.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hildegart

    I read this book for a medieval history class. It makes you think about what it might have been like back in the day of courtly love. Instructions to men on how to speak to women of various societal levels... Hmmm... Reading it today, we- my class- took a few different views on it. What stuck in my mind was that it's telling the men to not give up- the women will eventually say yes. I think guys might need a modern day version of this book... :-) I read this book for a medieval history class. It makes you think about what it might have been like back in the day of courtly love. Instructions to men on how to speak to women of various societal levels... Hmmm... Reading it today, we- my class- took a few different views on it. What stuck in my mind was that it's telling the men to not give up- the women will eventually say yes. I think guys might need a modern day version of this book... :-)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    An indispensable source in the history of sexuality. Ostensibly written as a cautionary guide by a priest against immoral romantic dalliance but offers plenty of practical advice for lovers. Important context for the works of the troubadour poets. An indispensable source in the history of sexuality. Ostensibly written as a cautionary guide by a priest against immoral romantic dalliance but offers plenty of practical advice for lovers. Important context for the works of the troubadour poets.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    I couldn't make myself finish this book. It was awful. It's as bad as The Prince- a guide to how to date outside of your station back in the day. I'm sure I could have taken something from it and there were parts that weren't too bad- but I prefer not to read books that are akin to instruction manuals. There are many, many other books I would prefer to read to this. I couldn't make myself finish this book. It was awful. It's as bad as The Prince- a guide to how to date outside of your station back in the day. I'm sure I could have taken something from it and there were parts that weren't too bad- but I prefer not to read books that are akin to instruction manuals. There are many, many other books I would prefer to read to this.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Anya

    Ladies and gents. THIS is how it is supposed to be done, old school (only applies for hetero couples though). 50 pages to advise you how to look for love AND speak with a lady. Necessary guidance for those who would love to perfect their courting techniques a la 12 century France.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Not an easy read, and possibly entertaining only for weirdos like me who really love this period of history.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    Quick read. Interesting although from a man's perspective and the author seems to contradict himself from chapter to chapter which I suspect is influenced by his love interest at the moment. Quick read. Interesting although from a man's perspective and the author seems to contradict himself from chapter to chapter which I suspect is influenced by his love interest at the moment.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    An interesting perspecitve between the male and female point of view in the 12th c.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Maloney

    I read an abridge version of Capellanus' work. In all seriousness, this book is so ridiculous, it's funny. I laughed at the last part for a good ten minutes. Please read. I read an abridge version of Capellanus' work. In all seriousness, this book is so ridiculous, it's funny. I laughed at the last part for a good ten minutes. Please read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Will Howard

    It was alright, an interesitng read, though kind of horrific in parts. I think I can really only cope with it considered as a work of humour.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Pinar Tasdemir

    I'm giving only one star, because the book is clearly against homosexuality (like most of the medieval-religious-freaky texts). I'm giving only one star, because the book is clearly against homosexuality (like most of the medieval-religious-freaky texts).

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