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The Olde Daunce: Love, Friendship, Sex, and Marriage in the Medieval World.

The Olde Daunce: Love, Friendship, Sex, and Marriage in the Medieval World, ed. by

Robert R. Edwards and Stephen Spector. (Albany: State University of New York

Press, 1991). viii + 311 pp. ISBN 0-7914-0440-4; 0-7914-0439-0. Inevitably

mediaevalists will continue to broach the subject of love in their period, since it

offers so many nuances and is capable of being handled by such a broad range of

critical approaches. This collection of essays, in which the theme of companionate

love as a requisite to marriage comes into focus most regularly, is both coherent

and exploratory. Elizabeth A. Clark, Michael M. Sheehan and Erik Kooper

provide the basis for the enterprise with essays on maritalis affectio as a doctrine

susceptible to historical development. Ad status sermons, in which the abstractions

of theology were translated into homilies directed towards people in specific states

of life, provide a good fresh source indicative of the possibilities for mutual

affection in mediaeval marriage. Essays by A. C. Spearing, R. W. Hanning,

Giovanni Sinicropi, and Jerome Mazzaro on, respectively, voyeurism, love and

power, chastity and love, and Dante's transformation from fin amour to friendship

comprise the second section on representations of love and marriage in continental

vernacular literature. Spearing's analysis of the poet as voyeur draws attention to

the tantalizing phenomenon of poetic self-consciousness, an awkward problem

when the poet's subject is sexual love. This is potentially a very large topic, since

voyeurism in mediaeval poetry is bound up with other concepts involving vision:

love at first sight; self-love (looking into the pool of Narcissus/the beloved's eves);

and the conflict between love and reason (where the act of writing poetry surely is

subsumed under the rule of reason) usually initiated by sight. The complexity of

Chaucer's poctic self-consciousness informs the final group of essays, which

considers Chaucer's work |as a sustained exploration of the artisic and moral

complexities that love presented to medieval poets' (p. 10). Robert R. Edwards

and John M. Fyler further explore Chaucer's treatment of love with respect to the

reading and writing of poetry, Edwards by examining Chaucer's retrospective

view of his own poetry and Fyler by considering his self-awareness in using

language as a form of sexual politics. Alan T. Gavlord and James I. Wimsatt

provide contrasting readings of the Franklin's Tale. Gavlord interprets the tale as a

presentation of |gentleniceness' that releases the reader into uncertainty about how

to realize love and integrity, while Wimsatt sees the tale as an optimistic

conclusion to Chaucer's discussion of friendship and marriage. Finally, Stephen

Spector and Marie Borroff consider the quality of love in the Prioress's Tale,

Spector by examining the intersection of love and racial hatred, and Borroff by

suggesting that the Prioress is capable of only a limited |love celestial' due to the

reductive polarities by which she lives. [Norm Klassen]
COPYRIGHT 1992 Society for the Study of Mediaeval Languages and Literature
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Klassen, Norm
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1992
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