Wracking my brain…

I have a British Literature take home exam; it’s due Tuesday evening and has to be 750-1000 words. Over Medieval Literature, I’m trying to come up with a thesis statement on Courtly love. I want to talk about its historical context, versus how popular contemporary authors treat “love.” I just can’t come up with a thesis statement and it’s driving me crazy.


6 thoughts on “Wracking my brain…”

  1. The thesis is the claim to the whole paper, but while I see your narrowed topic, I am less sure of your arguable claim.

    Do you want to say that contemporary romantics should return to the idea of selfless devotion? Because it seems to me that the courtly love folks put their beloved on pedestals too high for realistic mortals. On the other hand, weren’t these loves based on that frisson of “there you are!” contemporary lovers would recognize as an outlet to the (likely) loveless matches based on class and family expectations?

    Be careful not to make too direct a comparison with modern lovers since courtly love was practiced by a small percentage of a population. Most people weren’t at court! (And what do “court” marriages look like now, I wonder? A few royals have married commoners in the last few decades, but the gossip always is that the royal parents frown a lot at their wayward children. However, do the minor royalty stay in their subset?)

    I turned on notify me of follow up comments if you want more help.

    1. I love the idea of saying that Contemporary authors should return to the idea of selfless devotion. But with using works like Lanval and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, I’m not sure how to go about that. Both Gawain and Lanval demonstrate their selflessness and the use of courtly love abounds in both works.

    2. I have to discuss the theme of courtly love in at least three Middle English texts that we’ve read for my British Lit one class. This exam is really kicking my butt. *le sigh*

  2. You don’t say what your third choice is, but with the two you do mention, I see why your butt is being kicked! To be clear, I’m calling courtly love that “your humble servant” attitude that never refuses a direct order from a woman, but (as in these cases) has to be balanced against the knights’ code of fealty.
    These are two very different stories, so I suggest you make a similarities/differences list to consult as you think about them. Both men are knights of Arthur, both are tempted by married women, both must be a bit slippery to avoid upsetting the pushy woman, both break promises, etc. The differences are easier, but try to pick the meaningful ones, like Lanval is judged by Arthur in a detailed court scene — what’s the major reckoning moment in the other two works you use? Sir Gawain steps into his troubles as a service to Arthur — what’s the push for the other two? That sort of difference. If your instructor taught these as texts, then that might be enough analysis. If they were taught as symbolism, go back and compare those, too: Christ story? Adam and Eve?
    Once you have your lists, and if you are still inspired to compare these three to modern stories of romance, I suggest you consider movies as the modern storytelling. One of these makes me think of An Affair to Remember, for example. Star Wars is considered by many to be an Arthurian tale and all details symbolic. Two ends of the movie spectrum and plenty of choices in between. Warning, possible thesis ahead: Fairy tales are easily recognized in modern dress, but the medieval tales A, B, and C also live on in movies such as X, Y, and Z.
    Good luck, Chris!

    1. No, I talked about how women are deceptive and how the knights must battle to keep their wits and ultimately fail, but in doing so learn valuable lessons in respect to courtly love. Oh, well.. the ship has sailed. I cannot thank you enough for your assistance though!

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