SOCS 653
The Problem of Love in the Twelfth Century

Sara Ritchey         

Course Description

Many scholars have noted the wide range of cultural and intellectual changes in western Europe that took place during the twelfth century.  In doing so, some have labeled the period a “renaissance.”  Such scholars point to changes in education, religious organization, literature, and scientific and artistic production in order to defend this label.  This course seeks to investigate changes in the concept and expression of love in the twelfth century.  Was the western ideal of romantic love among the innovations of the period?  Through primary and secondary readings on the cult of love and friendship, we will address such topics as: the invention of the love narrative, homo- and heterosexual coupling, the psychological effects of courtly love literature, human love for God and God’s love for humanity, and the idea of persecution in the name of love.  Our goal will be to establish our own estimation of the changes wrought in the twelfth century and whether they warrant the label of “renaissance.”   

At the beginning of every class, each student will be asked to turn-in a two-page reaction paper in which s/he takes a critical position concerning the issues of that week's material. Students will also sign-up by topic to lead class discussion by preparing and pre-circulating a set of questions about the reading to be addressed during class.

Reading and Discussion Assignments
September 14

A Renaissance in the Twelfth Century? 

R.L. Benson and Giles Constable, eds., Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1982).  Compare the subjects and essays to Haskins contents (see handout).  Read essays by Ladner and Constable, available as on-line reserve.  

M.D. Chenu, “Nature and Man—The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century,” in M.D. Chenu, Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century.  Available as on-line reserve.

Caroline Walker Bynum, “Did the Twelfth Century Discover the Individual?” in Jesus as Mother, pp. 82-109.  Available for purchase at Broad Street Books.

September 21

The Problem of Love

Stephen Jaeger, Ennobling Love: In Search of a Lost Sensibility (1999). 

September 28

The Language of Eros 

John Baldwin, The Language of Sex: Five Voices from Northern France around 1200(Chicago: University of Chicago Press) 1994.

Selections from Love, Marriage and Family in the Middle Ages (2001). Available through Olin reserves.

October 5

Love and Marriage 

Georges Duby, The Priest, the Lady and the Knight: The Making of Modern Marriage in Medieval France (1994).
October 12

Caritas (the love of learning and the new monasticism)

Caroline Bynum, Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (1984).

Ann Astell, “Telling Tales of Love: Julia Kristeva and Bernard of Clarivaux,” Christianity and Literature 50 (2000): 125-148.

October 19 Jean Leclercq, Monks and Love in Twelfth-Century France: Psycho-historical Essays (1979).

Selections from Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, trans. R.G. Evans. Available through on-line reserves.

October 26

Love in the Schools 

Constant Mews, The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard: Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France (2001)

The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, trans. Betty Radice (2004), Letters 1-4.

November 2

Transfiguring Love  

Zizek, Slavoj. "Courtly Love, or, Woman as Thing." The Metastases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Woman and Causality. New York: Verso, 1995. 89-112.

Howard Bloch, Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love (1992).

November 9

The Return of the Woman Problem; or, the Psychohistorical Essay Revisited

Dyan Elliott, Fallen Bodies: Pollution, Sexuality and Demonology in the Middle Ages (1998).

November 16

Body and Desire

Bruce Hollsinger, Music, Body and Desire in Medieval Culture (2001).

Selections from Hildegard of Bingen, Selected Writings, trans. Mark Atherton, available through on-line reserves.

November 30

Desire and Vision

John  Milhaven, Hadewijch and Her Sisters (1993).

Selections from Karl Morrison, I Am You: The Hermeneutics of Empathy in Western Literature, Theology and Art (1988).

December 7

Contemporary Repercussions

Karma Lochrie, Heterosyncrasies: Female Sexuality When Normal Wasn’t (2005).

FINAL PAPERS DUE: December 14 at 5:00 pm

As the instructor, I reserve the right to make changes to this syllabus as I see fit through the course of the semester. Additionally, in order to ensure that we are clear on what is considered plagiarism, I direct you to the University's official definition and postion on that matter at: