Refining the Soul: The Pilgrimage of Caritas in the Romances of Chrétien de Troyes
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My thesis explores the relationship between twelfth-century theology and courtly romance. I specifically look at the connections between St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s treatise De diligendo Deo (On Loving God) (c. 1126) and the corpus of Chrétien de Troyes’s Arthurian romances (c. 1165-1190). In each tale, I analyze the progression of love made by the characters towards a complete attainment of caritas (charity). Chapter One investigates love from a medieval religious standpoint in order to establish Chrétien’s cultural milieu. I consider works by St. Augustine, the Canticum Canticorum (Songs of Songs), Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae (Consolation of Philosophy), as well as a mid-twelfth-century narrative poem composed in Old French, the lai of Narcisus. Chapter Two turns to two of Chrétien’s early romances, Érec et Énide and Yvain. Here, I show how the protagonists—Erec and Enide, and Yvain and Laudine—grow as a couple. In Chapter Three, I discuss Chrétien’s fourth romance, Le Chevalier de la Charrette (The Knight of the Cart), in light of the eleventh-century Vie de saint Alexis. The Concluding Remarks, then, end upon an investigation of Chrétien’s fifth and final work, Perceval. Throughout the thesis, I draw upon medieval artwork (manuscript illuminations, stained-glass windows, sculpture) to enrich my analyses. In this way, I come to grips with the medieval worldview and, more particularly, the twelfth-century understanding of love and marriage. Working within a fictional framework, Chrétien echoes Bernard and suggests that the love between man and woman is a response to God’s love; it is the first step towards spiritual perfection and happiness.