Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love
R. Howard Bloch, University of Calfornia, Berkeley
This seminar explored the relationships between medieval views of women, medieval poetics, and the advent in the twelfth century of courtly or romantic love. Beginning with the patristic associations of women with a range of linked representational practices—dress, cosmetics, prostitutions, odolatry, circuses, poetry, and mime—the seminar examined:
- the identity of the reproach against women as verbal transgressors—garrulous, contradictory, mendacious, deceptive, and seductive—and the medieval condemnation of rhetoric
- the reduction, through the persistent exhortation to virginity, of woman to the realm of pure Idea
- the underlying historic causes for the cultural approporation in the early modern period of myths of feminine perfections in the form of idealized love and mariolatry, and
- the crystallization of Europe’s first literary debate around the enmeshed questions of woman, allegory, empowerment, and voice.
Material for the course included passages from Genesis, the Early Church Fathers, Latin writers of the High Middle Ages, troubadour lyrics, Le roman de Tristan and Roman de la Rose, fabliaux, Gautier de Coinci’s Miracles of Our Lady, and Chaucer. Particular emphasis was placed on the Lais of Marie de France.
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