Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love

by Jennifer G. Wollock


The age of chivalry is not dead. Nor is the powerful allure of the rites of courtly romance. Tales of knights and ladies, honor, valor, and love continue to inspire books, films, and festivals, with the values they express shaping societies across the globe in profound ways even today. But where did those iconic figures and themes come from and how did they become so ingrained in world cultures?

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Cover image for Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love

April 2011


Pages 341
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics World History/Culture

This book offers an overview of the origins, growth, and influence of chivalry and courtly love, casting new light on the importance of these medieval ideals for understanding world history and culture to the present day.

Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love shows that these two interlinked medieval era concepts are best understood in light of each other. It is the first book to explore the multicultural origins of chivalry and courtly love in tandem, tracing their sources back to the ancient world, then follow their development—separately and together—through medieval life and literature.

In addition to examining the history of chivalry and courtly love, this remarkable volume looks at their enduring legacy—not just in popular media but in molding our present-day concepts of human rights, professional ethics, military conduct, and gender relations. Readers will see how understanding the tenets of the chivalrous life helps us understand our own world today.


  • A rich bibliography of key works, in print and online, on the history of chivalry and courtly love and their interpretation


  • Considers chivalry and courtly love as interconnected ideals, not as separate topics
  • Traces the roots of chivalry and courtly love, highlighting their multicultural origins
  • Emphasizes the importance of chivalry and courtly love today and their influence beyond western Europe
Author Info

Jennifer Goodman Wollock, PhD, is professor of English at Texas A&M University. Her published works include Chivalry and Exploration, 1298-1630, The Legend of Arthur in British and American Literature, and Malory and William Caxton's Prose Romances of 1485.



"As a comparative study, this is a valuable contribution to the literature; it reminds readers that one should be aware of the persistent influence that certain cultural phenomena may have. . . . Recommended."Choice


"Rethinking Chivalry and Courtly Love thoughtfully explores two important aspects of medieval ideology, the meaning of which people all too often assume they know but all too infrequently examine. This highly readable book draws on some of the latest research in the field, yet wears its scholarship lightly. With an overview informed by a wealth of precise local detail, it offers a reliable, wide-ranging and accessible introduction to the theory and practice of these medieval manifestations of violence and love. General readers and scholars alike will find much to intrigue and delight them here; the curious will learn, through the tracing of chivalry, courtly love, and the relations between them, how many aspects of the modern world—and modern thinking—build on medieval foundations, while the specialist will be impressed, not only by the interdisciplinary range and depth of knowledge Wollock brings to bear on the subject, but by the new connections she makes across time and space, which generously open up the whole area for further research and inquiry."—Catherine Batt, Senior Lecturer, School of English, University of Leeds

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