Fall 2006

SOCS 653
The Problem of Love in the Twelfth Century

Ritchey,Sara Margaret

09/11/2006 - 12/16/2006
Thursday 06:30 PM - 09:00 PM

Downey 100

In medieval European historiography, the twelfth century has been isolated as a historical problem because it appears to mark a number of "discoveries" of concepts we currently identify as modern. Such discoveries include the individual, of naturalism in the arts and theology, of political rhetoric, of religious reform, of vernacular poetry, of universities, of jurisprudence, and of science. These claims of discovery, of modernity, are highly value-laden. We will investigate these supposed discoveries through the lens of the cult of love and friendship. Through close readings of pivotal texts we will discuss the role of historians as narrators who write with particular purposes in mind, purposes colored by the circumstances of their own present, and which are at least as important to them as any need for proper historical transmission. We will focus, as a historical problem, on the validity of the term renaissance, when the term can be applied, and what cultural products can be placed under the term.

The course's focus on varieties of love in the twelfth century is designed to spur discussion of a specifically pre-modern society, one in which men who loved men were not homosexuals, and in which men who loved women were not heterosexuals. We will investigate love as a way of behaving in public, an experience of friendship between men, as well as a private feeling directed toward God, the self, and the other. For the first time, in the twelfth century women entered the public discussion of love, in both the courtly and the monastic spheres. The presence of women in the public discourse of love created tensions surrounding the possibility, never before discussed, of the platonic friendship of men and women. The result was a rich literature on the subject, evidencing tragic ambiguity, passion, destruction and sublimation.

Readings and sources for the course include Bernard of Clairvaux, Magnificat: Homilies in Praise of the Virgin Mary; Constant Mews, The Lost Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise: Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France; The Life of Christina of Markyate: A Twelfth-Century Recluse; Andreas Cappelanus, The Art of Courtly Love; William of Saint Thierry, The Nature and Dignity of Love; Frank Tallis, Lovesick: Love as a Mental Illness; R.L Benson and Giles Constable, Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century; Jean Leclercq, Monks and Love in Twelfth-Century France: Psycho-historical essays. In addition, we will analyze a number of manuscript illuminations and love songs from the period.

In order to facilitate discussion, students will be required to turn in weekly writing assignments, two pages in length. Each of these writing assignments will reflect their thoughts on the reading assignments for the week. There will also be an analytical paper of 15 pages due at the end of the semester.

Students are expected to have read the following the following in preparation for the first class meeting:

Ladner and Constable, "Renaissance and Renewal," available by online reserve.

M.D. Chenu, "Nature and Man-The Renaissance of the Twelfth Center," available by online reserve.

C.W. Bynum, "Did the Twelfth Century Discover the Individual?" (pp. 82-109), available at Broad Street Books.

Please Note: The password for online readings is HIST371.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Sara Ritchey (B.A. Newcomb College, Tulane University; M.A. University of Texas at Austin; Ph.D. University of Chicago) is visiting assistant professor of history. Her research focuses on the spiritual, cultural and intellectual life of medieval Europe. She is currently preparing for publication her research on the use of arboreal imagery as a dominant metaphor in Late Medieval Devotion.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
John Baldwin, THE LANGUAGE OF SEX (University of Chicago Press), Paperback

Howard Bloch, MEDIEVAL MISOGYNY AND THE INVENTION OF WESTERN ROMANTIC LOVE (University of California Press), Paperback

John Boswell, CHRISTIANITY, SOCIAL TOLERANCE AND HOMOSEXUALITY (University of Chicago Press), Paperback

Caroline Bynum, JESUS AS MOTHER (University of California Press), Paperback

George Duby, THE KNIGHT,THE LADY AND THE PRIEST (Chicago University Press), Paperback

Dyan Elliott, FALLEN BODIES (University of Pennsylvania Press), Paperback

Bruce Holsinger, MUSIC, BODY AND DESIRE (Stanford University Press), Paperback

Stephen Jaeger, ENNOBLING LOVE (University of Pennsylvania Press), Paperback

Karma Lochrie, HETEROSYNCRACIES (University of Minnesota Press), Paperback

Constant Mews, LOST LOVE LETTERS OF HELOISE AND ABELARD (Palgrave), Paperback

John Milhaven, HADEWIJCH AND HER SISTERS (SUNY Press), Paperback


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