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Love in the Western World Paperback – August 1, 1983

ISBN-13: 978-0691013930 ISBN-10: 0691013934 Edition: Revised

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Revised edition (August 1, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691013934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691013930
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.4 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"De Rougemont's reasoning is often ingenious, always arresting, fascinating in detail."--Time (Magazine)

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

57 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Chell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 21, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a curious, compelling study that is likely to generate as much controversy for its style as for its amalgamation of historical, cultural, literary, operatic, biblical and theological traditions. Rougement traces the "courtly love" tradition from its orgins among 12th century troubadors in southern France through the high Romanticism of 19th century opera to the modern-day consequences of a love that is based on Eros, delusion, and selfishness--a passion that lives for passion, and whose only consummation can be death (for were it to endure, to be exposed to the glaring light of day, it would no longer be romantic passion). Rougement's scholarship is solid, his interpretations provocative, and his proximity to his subject uncomfortably "close" for someone bearing the mantle of cultural critic and scholar. In fact, it's impossible not to feel the conflicted emotions of the author himself. On the one hand, he presents himself as the enemy of "Eros" and proponent of "Agape," as the critic of immature, romantic passion and the defender of mature relationships based on a realistic "dialogue" between two unique, complex individuals. On the other hand, he reveals the heart and soul of an incurable romantic, someone who has been love's thrall, who has been swept up in the dark rapture and sublimely lyrical death wish that is Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde." But far from being a liability, that underlying tension provides the book's argument with an energy, vitality and, yes, "passion" that is lacking in similar studies of this fascinating topic.Read more ›
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Roberto Minicucci on January 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
It is a great reading, though not easy, to fully understand this book you need to have a knowledge of european literature concepts (from the courtly love on).
If you don't have such fundamentals however you will only find it a little more difficult but not less interesting.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who want to understand more about not only his way of falling in and feeling Love, but also about his Culture.
Very interesting also the comparisons and discussions about the Eastern culture and influence on the West.
It's a little bit depressing thinking that such books are nowadays sold at such low prices and out-of-print; the subject and discussions have not actually gone out-of-print and probably won't for a couple of centuries ahead.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By S. Schuler on June 17, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rougemont's study of romantic love as a cultural phenomenon is an engaging and, at its best, compelling account of the origin and development of the western "cult" of romantic love between the sexes. He begins with a lucid reading of the myth of Tristan and Isolde, which exists in several medieval versions, showing how and why the mythic lovers seem to seek out barriers to their love rather than consummate it. Rougemont eventually links the Tristan myth to the early lyrics of the twelfth-century Troubador poets of southern France, whose lyrics are the foundation of the "courtly love" tradition in subsequent medieval and Renaissance poetry. Rougemont asks where the Troubadors got the idea that it was noble and poetic to pay erotic homage to an idealized lady who was beyond one's social reach. His answer is that the "courtly love" poems of the early Middle Ages arose from misappropriations of hymns developed by the heretical Cathars, a mystical sect that flourished in southern France in the twelfth century but was fiercely persecuted and eventually wiped out, leaving few authentic records of their beliefs. Nevertheless, Rougemont argues that the sect's predecessors included the Manichees of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries, as well as earlier Gnostic cults of the Near East. The Cathars, he suggests, composed mystical hymns to a figurative "lady" who represented the essence of the cult itself. He argues that the Troubadors seized on these hymns and used their conventions to address real ladies in Provencal courts.

As it developed out of neo-Manichean theology, courtly love poetry focused on the barriers to love such that the real topic of courtly lyrics is not the object of desire, but the desire itself, and especially its perpetual deferral.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
'Is there something fatal to marriage at the heart of human longing?' This is one of de Rougemont's key questions. And it seems to be based on his sense that the only true passionate love, is adulterous love, the love of the forbidden, the hidden love of the knight for the Lady who belongs to another.

In tracing the 'Myth of Love' in the Western literary tradition through the past seven centuries de Rougemont finds a central theme, that the Love of Passion, the Love of Eros is not the love of Agape, the Love of Christian charity. It is instead that sinful forbidden love for the one who one has no right to.

Here I do not doubt that de Rougemont has isolated a central motif , theme , ' topoi' of Western Literature, and perhaps of Literatures, not Western also. I do not wish to minimize its importance , and as I write this the image of 'Bovary' and 'Anna Karenina' both come as its confirmation.

Yet there also is in my my mind the image of another kind of Love, Biblical love, of Abraham's love for Sarah, of Isaac's for Rebecca, of Jacob's for Rachel. Those loves, at the beginning of one side of the Western Literary tradition seem to me to suggest a kind of passionate intimacy , whose model is sanctity. That is to say against de Rougemont I would want to say that there is a kind of passionate love in marriage , outside the Romantic as he sees it, and this passionate love is the love of Kedushah of holiness. It is too the kind of love which Tolstoy portrays in his parallel- couple to Anna and Vronsky, Kitty and Levin.

In any case the rich suggestiveness of de Rougemont's study and the depth of his thought make it a , at times dense and difficult , but also particularly meaningful work.
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