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A THEOLOGICAL DEFENSE OF COURTLY LOVE: MATFRE ERMENGAUD'S BREVIARI D'AMOR Matfre Ermengaud's late 13th-century Breviari d'Amor aims to teach about love according to orthodox Catholic doctrine. Although this religious work proposes to unite all the various forms oflove under a divine rubric, it manifests a curiously profound engagement with courtly love and troubadour lyric. The Breviari, I suggest, broadens and nuances its own orthodox principles concerning human love: it advocates marriage as well asfin 'amors; it engages orthodox Catholic readers as well as readers of troubadour poetry and familiari of Catharism. If the development of marriage in the Middle Ages has been well documented by such scholars as Duby, Bloch (165-97), Paterson (228-41), and Brooke, few have remarked Matfre's unusual defense of marriage and courtly love. The Breviari's surprising, even ironic, perspectives on love recall the tradition ofparadox in courtly love and literature. In his book, Andreas and the Ambiguity ofCourtly Love, Paolo Cherchi suggests that both social and literary paradox pervade the idea of courtly love. Similarly, noting the tension between mezura and extravagance , action and inaction, love and chivalry, Tony Hunt has argued that the concept of courtly love is dialectical in nature ("Aristotle," 108-9).Other scholars, among them Nolting-Hauff(30) and Sutherland, have supported theconclusionsofCherchi and Hunt. However, Matfre's presentation oflove is less ambiguous than it is ambitious: his theological defense ofmarriage extends to courtly love as well. Matfre's defense of courtly love in his vernacular religious text surprises, especially as a tradition of antifeminism and "anti-y?« 'amor" is present even in secular courtly literature (see Calin). Neil Cartlidge's notion ofa flexible characterization of marriage is useful in the context of the Breviari, because Matfre's posits a rather elastic conception of love (3). As much as Matfre describes marriage within orthodox doctrine, and in opposition to heretical beliefs, he nevertheless draws many ofhis characteristics of love from courtly sources, thereby reinforcing 26 A THEOLOGICAL DEFENSE OF COURTLY LOVE the moral validity of/?« 'amors. Unlike Juan Ruiz's more equivocal fourteenth-century Libro de buen amor, Matfre uses theology to shore up not only the sacrament of marriage but also the practice and tenets ofcourtly love (see Dagenais). A summa that places typical encyclopedic subjects under the umbrella of love, the Breviari d'Amor offers a spiritual, even theological, perspective on all the various manifestations of love. Written some sixty years after the Albigensian crusade, at a time when concerns about the Cathar heresy had not yet abated, the Breviari emphasizes orthodoxy: it teaches about love according to Catholic doctrine and the teachings ofpatristic exegetes, placing it firmly within the institution ofmarriage. Matfre characterizes marriageas inherently virtuousand expounds in greatdetail on itthroughout the Breviari. He not only devotes a section specifically to matrimony as a virtue (vv. 32644-32669), but also details the fruits and divine grace ofmarriage (vv. 32670-32747). Indeed, Matfre's conceptions oflove follow patristic exegesis; his teleology upholds marriage as a sacrament, with a heavy emphasis on marital chastity, that is to say, sex within marriage solely for the purpose ofprocreation . While Brundage argues that not all medieval thinkers agreed about marriage as a sacrament and its place in Christian life (Law, Sex 351-358, 430-443), Matfre himself forcefully extols marriage as both sacrament and social institution. As would be expected, patristic writings on marriage strongly influence Matfre's own comments on marriage. Matfre's guidelines concerning marriage, in particular the proper intentions that one should bring to marriage (w. 32784-32809), point to such authorities as Augustine, Jerome, and Paul as confirmation ofthe importance of chastity even in marriage. Matfre declares that marriage isnot forsomeonewho simplydesiresto have sex with awoman: en deu far per entencioAnd one must have the intention d'esquivar fornicacio,ofavoiding fornication, e non quieira delieg carnaland should not seek carnal joy en l'orde matremonial.in the matrimonial state. (w. 32792-32795) 27 MICHELLE BOLDUC Although carnal expressions oflove are best within marriage, they must not be its focal point. By making "fornicacio" parallel with "delieg carnal / en l'orde matremonial," Matfre even suggests that one who seeks to satisfy physical desire...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-0146
Print ISSN
0890-3352
Pages
pp. 26-47
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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