Our next talk will be given by Marco Prost from the Centre for Medieval Studies at Reading University. His title is ‘From Bernart de Ventadorn to Denis de Rougemont: The Medieval Woman and the Western World’. The meeting is on 6th March, at 4pm in HumSS 280. We look forward to seeing you there!
How far into the past should we track the cultural idealization of women as objects of male desire? In Love in the Western World (also translated as Passion and Society) Denis de Rougemont has argued for a specificity of the western conception of love, whose origin may be precisely traced back to the 12th century, the age of troubadours’ lyric and courtly love, such as illustrated by Bernart de Ventadorn’s poems (Tant ai mo cor ple de joya) or André le Chapelain so-called Art of Courtly Love (De Amore).
That era saw the rise of a celebration of the admired and beloved “Lady”, a trope which appears to help the recognition and respect of women’s own will, while also trapping them onto an impossible throne of sovereign perfection. Even more important for de Rougemont, though, is the legend of Tristan and Iseult, where love and death would prove as two interconnected desires, which have shaped our modernity. Maurice Barrès’ Jardin sur l’Oronte (1922) will illustrate how vivid and structural such a paradigm can be in works of fiction fascinated with the medieval period.