ENGLISH 70 [006M]

Courtly Love--Then and Now

First Year Seminar

Section 1, 3:30-4:45pm TR, Beverly Taylor, MU 304

Office Hours: Tues 1-1:50pm, Thurs 1-1:50pm and by appointment in GL 501


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Course Topic:

How have ideas about love and courtship changed between the twelfth-century “Rules of Love” penned by Andrew the Chaplain, on the one hand, and 1995’s The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, or 2003’s Find a Husband after 35 Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School, on the other?  Just what was “courtly love”?  And how has it influenced our own views of romance?  Our readings will include literature which defined this influential concept, from The Art of Love by the Latin writer Ovid, to medieval Arthurian romances and troubadour lyrics, to Renaissance sonnets and Shakespeare’s plays.  We’ll trace the influence of these traditions in works by nineteenth-century writers such as Alfred Tennyson and Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and in contemporary novels, films, cartoons, and advertisements.  In the process we’ll explore the history of Western thought about gender relations, and the political and economic implications of our ideas about beauty, sex, and love.




Web Resources offering explanations of the term “courtly love” and discussing pertinent writings:




Course activities:

  1. discussing the readings

  2. viewing and discussing films and film clips

  3. viewing and discussing images of lovers and iconic women, and 20th /21st-century cartoons and advertisements that evoke or parody courtly love

  4. maintaining informal reading notebooks in which, throughout the semester, you’ll record your reactions to the reading that you’re doing for this course—I’ll collect your notebooks from time to time to get a sense of your reading and thinking about our topic

  5. writing brief reaction papers in class throughout the semester

  6. presenting your original research:  collecting and analyzing contemporary expressions, parodies, and revisions of courtly love models.  Instead of a conventional final exam, your final project will be to present to the seminar your observations on the vestiges of courtly love in contemporary society.  These presentations can be individual or group projects, and they may employ varied media.  You might, for example, collect and discuss visual images or music pertinent to our topic, compile an anthology of love poetry by collecting and annotating or commenting on pertinent verse, write your own sonnet sequence, analyze one or more pertinent films, survey and analyze public opinions on courtship rituals, or prepare a photo essay on expressions of courtly love today.  You should meet with me to discuss your term project.


Honor Code:  In this class, by presenting oral material or submitting written work bearing your name, you implicitly affirm that you have abided by the letter and the spirit of the University’s Honor Code in preparing it.  If you have any questions about how to acknowledge resources, please talk with me.


AttendanceBecause this course is a seminar, it is imperative that you prepare for it and attend and participate regularly.  If you have difficulties during the semester which interfere with your ability to participate fully, please talk with me.  Otherwise, absences and failure to engage in class activities will severely affect your grade.


Grading:  Your grade will have 4 components: (1) participation in class discussions on a regular basis; (2) reading notebook, in-class writings, and any other written daily assignments; (3 & 4) final project.



 Aug 24:  course introduction, film clips from Camelot, First Knight, Titanic, Shrek; background on courtly love

         29:  Bedier, The Romance of Tristan and Iseult

         31:  no class (instructor attending a conference)

Sept 5:  Tristan and Iseult

        7:  Ovid, “The Art of Love” (pp. 105-78); “The Remedies for Love: (pp. 181-206); “The Art of Beauty” (pp. 99-102); selection from Plato’s Symposium (handout).

      12:  Andreas Capellanus, The Art of Courtly Love (pp. 27-36; 144-49, 151-212)

      14:  Renaissance sonnets, including Shakespeare (handout)

      19:  Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

      21:  Midsummer Night’s Dream

      26:  Midsummer Night’s Dream (film)

      28:  Midsummer Night’s Dream

Oct  3:  Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

        5:  Romeo and Juliet

      10:  Romeo and Juliet (films)

      12:  Romeo and Juliet

      17:  poetry by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (handout or email attachment)

      19:  Fall Break—no classes

      24:  Tennyson, from Idylls of the King:  “Lancelot and Elaine”

      26:  Tennyson, from Idylls of the King:  “The Last Tournament,” “Pelleas and Ettarre”

      31:  Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Nov 2: The Great Gatsby

       7:  The Great Gatsby (film)

       9:  The Great Gatsby

     14:  Ondaatje, The English Patient

     16:  The English Patient

     21:  The English Patient (film)

     23:  Thanksgiving—no class

     28:  The English Patient

     22:  presentation of final projects; turn in reading notebooks

Dec 5:  presentation of final projects—last day of class


Final exam:  Friday, Dec 8: complete presentation of final projects.