Title Background

<i>Ethics and Enjoyment in Late Medieval Poetry: Love After Aristotle</i> 

Ethics and Enjoyment in Late Medieval Poetry: Love After Aristotle 

This book provides a history of the ethics of medieval vernacular love poetry by tracing its engagement with the late medieval reception of Aristotle. With treatments of Le Roman de la Rose, Machaut, Froissart, Chaucer, Deguileville, and L, Rosenfeld shows that poets were often markedly aware of the overlapping ethical languages of philosophy and erotic poetry. The book reveals that ‘courtly love’ was not confined to what is often characterized as an ethic of sacrifice and deferral, but also engaged with Aristotelian ideas about pleasure and earthly happiness. The fourth chapter offers an extended reading of PPl in the context of fourteenth-century understandings of the mental faculties of the will and the intellect, explored via scholastic philosophy (John Duns Scotus, William Ockham, Jean Buridan, Nicole Oresme), the ‘mounted Aristotle’ tradition, and Deguileville’s Pèlerinage de Vie Humaine. Rosenfeld focuses on L’s construction of love as a mode of knowledge, illustrating not only that his model of a rational will has important affiliations with discussions of will and reason in scholastic philosophy, but also that he represents excessive intellectual desire as an erotic excess. She argues that the poem ultimately constructs an ‘epistemology of pleasure’ by which the soul might seek to unify both will and intellect with God. The study’s conclusion places medieval poetry and philosophy in the context of psychoanalytic ethics, and argues for a re-evaluation of Lacan’s ideas about courtly love. (JR)

Rev. by:

  • Sarah Kay, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, 34 (2012), 429-31;
  • Glending Olson, Speculum, 87 (2012), 1244-46.