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Love Cures

Healing and Love Magic in Old French Romance

By Laine E. Doggett

Publication Year: 2009

What is love? Popular culture bombards us with notions of the intoxicating capacities of love or of beguiling women who can bewitch or heal—to the point that it is easy to believe that such images are timeless and universal. Not so, argues Laine Doggett in Love Cures. Aspects of love that are expressed in popular music—such as “love is a drug,” “sexual healing,” and “love potion number nine”—trace deep roots to Old French romance of the high Middle Ages. A young woman heals a poisoned knight. A mother prepares a love potion for a daughter who will marry a stranger in a faraway land. How can readers interpret such events? In contrast to scholars who have dismissed these women as fantasy figures or labeled them “witches,” Doggett looks at them in the light of medical and magical practices of the high Middle Ages. Love Cures argues that these practitioners, as represented in romance, have shaped modern notions of love. Love Cures seeks to engage scholars of love, marriage, and magic in disciplines as diverse as literature, history, anthropology, and philosophy.

Published by: Penn State University Press

Series: Penn State Romance Studies

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. ix-x

I incurred many debts both professional and personal during the completion of this project. Without interlibrary loan, this book would not exist. I would like to thank the library staffs of Erskine College, of Florida Atlantic University at campuses in Jupiter and Boca Raton, and of St. Mary’s College of Maryland. In particular, Brenda Rodgers at St. Mary’s provided seemingly endless patient and careful attention to my many requests...

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pp. 1-14

Pop songs, television programs, and other forms of popular culture in our world today are replete with representations of romantic love as a form of intoxication, the beloved woman as capable of either bewitching or healing, and the idea that a couple’s love will result in a lifelong bond and happiness. Although we might assume that these notions have been with us for all time, I seek to determine how, where, and when they arose and how they came to be a part of the social construct of love...

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1. Background Considerations

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pp. 15-38

This chapter provides material on several topics that are necessary for the analyses that follow. The first section gives a general framework for the institutions and practices of medieval medicine and magic so that the reader has a context for specific episodes in the romances. The second section briefly discusses the marvelous in order to make clear the distinction between it and magic, since the two are easily conflated...

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2. On Artifice and Realism: Thessala in Chretien de Troyes’s Cliges

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pp. 39-84

Chrétien de Troyes’s Cligés has a reputation for raising more questions than it answers, in part because it contrasts so sharply with the author’s other works. The central portion of the narrative recounts the love of Cligés and Fenice and the work of Fenice’s handmaiden, Thessala, whose efforts enable the couple to realize their dream of marrying each other. Thessala’s engagement in both healing and love magic makes an ideal place to open our inquiry...

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3. Tristan and Iseut: Beyond a Symbolic Reading of Empirical Practice

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pp. 85-133

As we saw in the last chapter, a careful analysis of Clig

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4. Tristan and Iseut: Empirical Practice Amidst Competing Claims

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pp. 134-177

As we saw in the previous chapter, reading the episodes of healing and love magic as empirical practices common in the high Middle Ages offers new insight into Thomas’s Tristan. Such a reading establishes both Iseut and her mother as competent, well-respected practitioners who use their healing skills to help Tristan. Iseut’s mother also practices love magic in an attempt to positively influence her daughter’s future...

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5. Love and Medicine in the Roman de Silence

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pp. 178-220

The complex set of Tristan materials analyzed in the previous two chapters continues to play a role in the works that come after them. The nature and import of that role will be the subject of the two chapters to come. We have seen that although the versions of Thomas and B

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6. Reworked Elements in Amadas et Ydoine

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pp. 221-261

We saw in the last chapter a beloved, Euphemie, who heals a wounded knight from a battle poisoning. Euphemie is considered the best doctor in the land, and her healing practices derive from both empirical practices of her time and from the depiction of Iseut in the Tristan romances...

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pp. 262-267

My analysis of the ways in which love, magic, and medicine overlap and mutually influence each other in a set of thematically related Old French romances began by focusing on the knowledge and skills of empirical practitioners (those without formal training)...


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pp. 263-286


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pp. 287-291

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271052571
E-ISBN-10: 0271052570
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271035307
Print-ISBN-10: 0271035307

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Penn State Romance Studies