Synopses & Reviews
What can the study of courtly love and the history of sexuality learn from each other? In Courtly Love, the Love of Courtliness, and the History of Sexuality, James A. Schultz draws on key texts from the German tradition to explore the answers to this question.
From the history of sexuality, Schultz shows, one learns to be suspicious of modern assumptions about the male and female body, the origin of desire, and the categories of sexuality. He finds that courtly love is not provoked by sex difference or an intrinsic desire but by extrinsic signs of class status: bodies that are visibly noble and behaviors that manifest exemplary courtliness.
From the study of courtly love the history of sexuality can come to terms with a topic it has generally ignored but that represents nevertheless one of the most consequential medieval discourses on bodies and their pleasures, an object of fascination to contemporaries and an influence on European thinking about love for centuries. Compared to other “sexualities,” courtly love exhibits an extraordinary congruence with social forms. It manifests itself as courtly discipline, through rituals of welcome or knightly service. It promises not only the joy of lovemaking but also the distinction that accrues to those who have mastered the disciplines of courtliness. It represents the eroticization of noble status and courtly culture: the love of courtliness.
"Schultz adds an important chapter both to queer theory and to the study of courtly love in the Middle Ages. Moreover, he provides an example of what an elegant, carefully nuanced, and historicized reading of Middle High German texts can achieve."
"This is a major work. James Schultz's new book brings courtly love up to theoretical speed-finally. Schultz weds this traditional and central subject matter-an area of research since the nineteenth century-to the Foucault-inspired history of sexualitythat has flourished during the last thirty years. The result is a timely, superbly readable, and intellectually rewarding study."--Helmut Puff, University of Michigan
"Schultz has written a brilliant book on German minne-culture, outdoing recent gender and queer studies not by rejecting their questions but by laying bare some hidden implications of their answers. He opens an appropriate access to the history of courtly love. Future scholarship will have to proceed from his observations."
“This is the most important study of courtly love to appear in the last twenty years. Drawing on the rich medieval German literary tradition, this book argues that what moderns think of as sex is, in fact, a historical construct. Showing in detail how the great medieval German texts understood the category of sex, James Schultz adds a considerable chapter to the history of sex, the history of gender, and medieval studies.”--Ann Marie Rasmussen, Duke University
"Schultz's theory explaining the connection between historical phenomena and the rise of courtly literature is the most convincing explanation for the innovation of courtly love that I have read. By far the most notable aspect of the book is Schultz's breaking down of courtly love into the love of courtliness. . . . [This idea] will certainly change the way courtly love is conceptualized. Anyone interested in medieval women, the history of sexuality, or courtly literature will benefit from Schultz's ideas."
"This book is full of fascinating, provocative theses regarding gender issues, questions addressing homo- and heterosexuality, the erotic function of the human body, the gaze, and other aspects of courtly love in its sexual context. . . . A short review cannot do it justice, but this observation might already be its highest praise. James Schultz offers a wide range of critical reflections that open numerous windows on central questions concerning the fundamental values and framework of medieval courtly society."
"The author's style is extremely readable and easy to follow. The wealth of examples chosen from the German corpus illustrates his arguments admirably."
One of the great achievements of the Middle Ages, Europes courtly culture gave the world the tournament, the festival, the knighting ceremony, and also courtly love. But courtly love has strangely been ignored by historians of sexuality. With Courtly Love, the Love of Courtliness, and the History of Sexuality,
James Schultz corrects this oversight with careful analysis of key courtly texts of the medieval German literary tradition.
Courtly love, Schultz finds, was provoked not by the biological and intrinsic factors that play such a large role in our contemporary thinking about sexuality—sex difference or desire—but by extrinsic signs of class: bodies that were visibly noble and behaviors that represented exemplary courtliness. Individuals became “subjects” of courtly love only to the extent that their love took the shape of certain courtly roles such as singer, lady, or knight. They hoped not only for physical union but also for the social distinction that comes from realizing these roles to perfection. To an extraordinary extent, courtly love represented the love of courtliness—the eroticization of noble status and the courtly culture that celebrated noble power and refinement
About the Author
James A. Schultz is professor of German at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of three previous books, including, most recently, The Knowledge of Childhood in the German Middle Ages, 1100-1350.
Table of Contents
Citations, References, and Names
Introduction: Courtly Sexuality and the History of Love
Causa materialis: What Sort of Bodies Are Involved?
1. Parzival’s Penis: A Brief History
2. The Sexual Identity of Courtly Lovers
3. The Aphrodisiac Body on Display
Causa efficiens: What Gets Them Going?
4. The Danger of Heterosexuality
5. Love without Desire
Causa formalis: How Do They Manage It?
7. Single Singers: Suffering Alone in Public
8. Chivalric Couples: Knights, Ladies, and Marriage
9. Secret Lovers: Tristan, Isold, and the Watchman at Dawn
Causa finalis: What Do They Get Out of It?
10. Four Degrees of Intimacy
11. Taking Courtly Love at Its Word
12. Masculine Anxiety and the Consolations of Fiction