Ennobling Love

Ennobling Love: In Search of a Lost Sensibility

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Ennobling Love
    Book Description:

    "Richard, Duke of Aquitaine, son of the King of England, remained with Philip, the King of France, who so honored him for so long that they ate every day at the same table and from the same dish, and at night their beds did not separate them. And the King of France loved him as his own soul; and they loved each other so much that the King of England was absolutely astonished at the vehement love between them and marveled at what it could mean." Public avowals of love between men were common from antiquity through the Middle Ages. What do these expressions leave to interpretation? An extraordinary amount, as Stephen Jaeger demonstrates. Unlike current efforts to read medieval culture through modern mores, Stephen Jaeger contends that love and sex in the Middle Ages relate to each other very differently than in the postmedieval period. Love was not only a mode of feeling and desiring, or an exclusively private sentiment, but a way of behaving and a social ideal. It was a form of aristocratic self-representation, its social function to show forth virtue in lovers, to raise their inner worth, to increase their honor and enhance their reputation. To judge from the number of royal love relationships documented, it seems normal, rather than exceptional, that a king loved his favorites, and the courtiers and advisors, clerical and lay, loved their superiors and each other. Jaeger makes an elaborate, accessible, and certain to be controversial, case for the centrality of friendship and love as aristocratic lay, clerical, and monastic ideals. Ennobling Love is a magisterial work, a book that charts the social constructions of passion and sexuality in our own times, no less than in the Middle Ages.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0062-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Cordelia on Trial
    (pp. 1-8)

    A long time ago, before I had any idea where this irritation might take me, two texts got under my skin, stuck there, and were the seeds from which this book eventually grew. One was a passage from a chronicle of the reign of Henry II of England, which is the subject of Chapter 1; the other the opening scene of King Lear. In the first, the writer tells how the French siege of the English at Châteauroux in 1187 was ended when the king of France fell in love with the duke of Aquitaine and future king of England,...

  5. Part I: Charismatic Love and Friendship
    • 1 Problems of Reading the Language of Passionate Friendship
      (pp. 11-26)

      Henry II’s campaign in France in 1187 bogged down when his son, Richard Lionheart, to whom he had entrusted a large part of the English army, fell in love with the enemy king, the young Philip Augustus of France. Without giving the incident any particular highlight, the chronicler, Roger of Hovedon, writing at the turn of the twelfth to the thirteenth century, describes the end of the French siege at Châteauroux as follows:

      Richard, Duke of Aquitainc, son of the King of England, remained with Philip, the King of France, who so honored him for so long that they ate...

    • 2 Virtue and Ennobling Love (1): Antiquity and Early Christianity
      (pp. 27-35)

      Ennobling love in antiquity had many ideas and customs in common with medieval. Predominant is the idea that love raises the value of lovers, shows forth virtue, increases their social standing. Three passages asserting that point can serve as a bridge from antiquity to the Middle Ages:

      The friendship of good men is a good thing. It grows constantly through close association. And as experience shows, the friends increase in ethical worth. This is a friendship of actions and of mutual perfecting. For each forms in himself, as it were, the excellent qualities which please him in the other by...

    • 3 Love of King and Court
      (pp. 36-53)

      The experience of love and friendship inherited from ancient Rome was elitist and class-bound in the highest degree. That is clear in its major formulation, Cicero’s De amicitia, which represents friendship as the prerogative of a social elite:

      . . . friendship is cultivated by those who are most abundantly blessed with wealth and power and especially with virtue, which is man’s best defence; by those least in need of another’s help; and by those most generous and most given to acts of kindness. (14.52)

      The alignment of wealth, power, and virtue was built into the system of social and...

    • 4 Love, Friendship, and Virtue in Pre-Courtly Literature
      (pp. 54-58)

      “Satire concerning Friendship and the Marriage of a Saxon and a Frank” is the title of a poem fragment (forty-four lines have survived) from the early eleventh century.¹ Its double occasion is the marriage of the poet’s liege lord, a Count Heidenreich, to a Saxon woman, and the lord’s gratuitous release of the poet from his unfree status for the occasion. The generosity of the act shows the “lordly virtue” of Heidenreich. Virtue is not easily acquired: it requires effort striving for “grand things.” Virtue constitutes the “shining fame of nobility” in the lord who exercises it. This was preface...

    • 5 Love in Education, Education in Love
      (pp. 59-81)

      Being a major element of life at court, love also became part of the education of the nobles. Charismatic friendship is a subject of instruction and at the same time a medium, a modality of teaching. It follows that love as an object of education is an important line to follow in the history of charismatic love and friendship. It is an important subject in the history of education, certainly of ancient and medieval education.¹ The love relationship between student and teacher is too long lived and persistent to refer to as a “tradition,” which implies recognized values transmitted from...

    • 6 Women
      (pp. 82-106)

      Ennobling love created a Camelot world of erotic discourse, which survived for a long time with its innocence untroubled. Until the twelfth century it had been an exclusive club for gentlemen.¹ Of course there had been a few ripples on the surface: Jerome’s letters to Paula and Eustochium, Venantius Fortunatus’s letters to Radegund and Agnes, Boniface’s to and from various Anglo-Saxon abbesses.² But these were insignificant waivings of the rules, or individual acts of condescension, not a welcoming of noblewomen generally into this discourse.

      The essential and traumatic change in the amatory customs of the nobility was the inclusion of...

  6. Part II:: Sublime Love
    • 7 Sublime Love
      (pp. 109-116)

      The charm of a love hedged in by all sorts of restrictions on the physical is a peculiar mystery of the western erotic tradition.¹ To renounce what appears essential to love gives love special allure. One strain of Western erotic poetry made a virtue of refusal, restriction, sublimation, restraint, turned amorous desire into the first step of a process of moral education. Leo Spitzer described the sublime love of the troubadours with his usual elegance:

      I had always believed that this love [“distant love”], wrapped in the mists of a dream, was the most moving assertion of what I call...

    • 8 Love Beyond the Body
      (pp. 117-127)

      It seemed useful to juxtapose Aelred and Andreas as two formulators of love in different social settings with a common social background and many common points of what both of them call “doctrine.” The resonances between De spintali amidtia and De amore are evident. But the comparisons can be drawn more broadly, and in mapping the extent of “sublime love” it seems appropriate to follow some of its central conceptions and try to illuminate points of commonality where they have not been seen. One of the most broadly shared characteristics is the idealizing of a love that overcomes the reliance...

    • 9 Sleeping and Eating Together
      (pp. 128-133)

      Chaste and virtuous love were performed or performable gestures. There was an articulated vocabulary of acts publicly proclaiming love. Some of them can still be seen, for instance in the iconography of Christ and St. John.¹ The gestures conventional in secular society constituted rituals of peace-making and made their way by this route into historical documents. Prominent among them arc sleeping and eating together.

      Gregory of Tours (d. 595) tells of the conflict between two nobles in Tours, Sichar and Chramnesind, who were reconciled after a blood feud and made public show of the magna amicitia they formed: “They loved...

    • 10 Eros Denied, Eros Defied
      (pp. 134-144)

      King Penthcus underestimated the power of Dionysus and was torn apart by the Bacchantes. Chaucer’s Troilus scorned love, and was brought to ruin by Cressida. The “Duke of True Lovers” and his lady in Christine de Pizan’s story maintain a strictly chaste and spiritual love, and they lose honor and reputation in spite of their innocence. It is no small matter claiming to master Eros, boasting of victories over the body. Robert of Arbrissel was playing with fire, and Geoffrey of Vendome was understandably skeptical of his claim that he was not burned. But Geoffrey’s admiration for anyone who could...

    • 11 Virtue and Ennobling Love (2): Value, Worth, Reputation
      (pp. 145-154)

      “Love increases the worth of lovers”: this common motif of the lyric and narrative of courtly love can get us into an analysis of the mechanisms of exaltation through love.

      Philip Augustus “honored” Richard Lionheart by loving him as his own soul (in tantum honoravit... quod). The public conferring of honor was staged when the two princes ate with each other at the same table and from the same bowl, shared the same clothes and the same bed. For the chronicler it was completely unproblematic that the gestures of love express honor conferred rather than the pinning on of orders...

  7. Part III: Unsolvable Problems — Romantic Solutions:: The Romantic Dilemma
    • 12 The Epistolae duorum amantium, Heloise, and Her Orbit
      (pp. 157-173)

      In the course of the twelfth century, the discourse of ennobling love lost its innocence. Or at least it came under fire and was forced to find new ways of asserting it. Explaining the sudden self-consciousness, the protestations of sincerity, the defensiveness against guilt and shame seems to me one of the most important problems in the study of love, not only in court circles but also in clerical culture and its literature.

      The reasons are complex and cannot be reduced to a single line of explanation. The proliferation of a humanistic, classical education in the milieu of the learned...

    • 13 The Loves of Christina of Markyate
      (pp. 174-183)

      It would be wrong to imagine that the sanctioning/sanctifying of passion was only a result of the frank sensuality that is part of the student milieu in Paris in the twelfth century, helped along by the admiration of Heloise and the loyalty of students to Abelard.

      Christina of Markyate was from a very different milieu. She was an English visionary and recluse who lived in the first half of the twelfth century. A monk of St. Albans wrote a Life in the 1160s, which remained incomplete. Her story has played a marginal role in discussions of marriage and spiritual friendship...

    • 14 Virtuous Chastity, Virtuous Passion — Romantic Solutions in Two Courtly Epics
      (pp. 184-197)

      By the decade 1150–1160 virtue-giving love has become far more complex, far more difficult either to understand or to accomplish than the male love that had been its nurturing context. And it starts its march away from life and experience and into fairy tale, myth, romance. It also accordingly generates a body of imaginative literature.

      It is an odd fact that love emerges in the literature of “courtly love” as an object not just of adulation but of irony and satire. It is not clear that Chrétien de Troyes takes entirely seriously the harsh demands of loving women or...

    • 15 The Grand Amatory Mode of the Noble Life
      (pp. 198-214)

      Ennobling love rescued itself from its conceptual crises in grand fashion. Out of the agonies of this new literature of romantic problems arose a code of behavior I will call the grand amatory mode. As a scenario of noble action, this creation of the High Middle Ages had a great future, like chivalry, from which it is not easily separable. In the later Middle Ages and earlier modern period ennobling love maintained itself as social gesture and public behavior mainly within this mode. It became a stylized, ritualized code of action, projected in its expression into the far reaches of...

  8. Appendix: English Translations of Selected Texts
    (pp. 215-240)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 241-282)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 283-302)
  11. Index
    (pp. 303-311)