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A classic study of the allegorical power of love in literature, traced through major works of the medieval and Renaissance periods, by one of the major literary critics of the twentieth century.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.
This is the book which made C.S. Lewis' reputation as a critic of medieval and renaissance literature; in the original, medieval, sense, it was the "piece" that marked his transition from Apprentice to Master. It was first published in 1936, and has been reprinted many times. (I have 1960s copies of Oxford's 1958 "Galaxy Book" paperback edition; the cover of the recent Oxford Paperback is a great improvement.) As originally written, it covered the development of allegorical narrative from late classical antiquity to the Elizabethan poet Spenser's "Faerie Queene," with particular attention to the "Allegorical Love Poems of the Middle Ages" (the working title).
Unhappily for the book's long-term reputation, Lewis was persuaded to add to the planned text an earlier summary of modern theories of "courtly love" in medieval life and literature. Lewis himself noted that this theoretical construction did not quite fit the texts he analyzed in detail, and the whole approach is now regarded as at best problematic, and by many as simply wrong. Since Lewis presented the material with unusual clarity and wit, however, he has come to be treated as an authoritative source on "Courtly Love" theory by some, and attacked as such by others.
The rest of the book, being based on original studies of primary sources, retains much of its value. Later textual studies and shifts in crticial theory have only slightly diminished its value, and his discussions of such now-obscure writers as Martianus Capella remain among the most inviting of introductions. Lewis' treatment of "The Romance of the Rose" is still illuminating (and the point of departure for many recent re-considerations).Read more ›
"The Allegory of Love" is an academic work that, among other things, traces the concept of love in literature, particularly the concept of courtly love in medieval literature. In the "Encyclopædia Britannica," it is listed before all the other works of Lewis as "his finest scholarly work." This shows the book's importance in making Lewis a respected literary critic.
The main point of the first part of the book is that the concept of love changed in the literature of France in the eleventh century and has influenced the arts up to our day. Many years later, however, in "The Four Loves," Lewis admits that he had treated the concept of love too much like a literary phenomenon and failed to see that many characteristics of erotic love which he had attributed to eleventh-century France are in fact characteristics that lie in the very nature of erotic love (e.g., the tendency to make love into a god who sanctions any crime committed in its name).
Having said this, "The Allegory of Love" is still a great academic work that delights as much as it instructs - a milestone in the Lewis Canon.
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While most associate Mr. Lewis with an assortment of tomes of otherworld fantasias (Narnia, Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, etc) or contemporary crisis, Allegory of Love is a very well written and scholarly study of medieval period (he once wrote that while the Renaissance was always a personlized venture for scholars, the dark ages belonged to boyhood), replete with references to not only incubala but extensive Greek, mystics, and Shakepeariana. It's nearly in the stylization and tradition of Fraser's "Golden Bough" with the precision of someone devoted to writing on, say, Milton or Donne. I hadn't really expected as fine and as much from this, but found without reservation it to be one of the hundred (perhaps fifty) best books I've ever read. Strongly recommend
[Note to readers, November 7, 2013: Amazon (or its software) has seen fit to attach my October 2003 review of the hardcover edition of C.S. Lewis' "The Allegory of Love" (as slightly emended later) to the 2013 Kindle edition of the book from HarperCollins. I've decided to up-date it, using my 2012 review of a paperback edition as a basis. You also can find reviews by others under some of the various, separate, Amazon listings of the title.]
"The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition" is the book which made C.S. Lewis' reputation as a critic of medieval and renaissance literature, in advance of his later fame as a Christian apologist, a fantasy writer, or a poet; his earliest works in these fields having been published under pseudonyms.
"The Allegory of Love" was first published in 1936, and has been reprinted many times, in hardcover at least into the 1970s, and in paperback from the late 1950s. Unfortunately, it has been out of print for some time, and third-party offering of re-printings (which have been listed separately by Amazon) have been rather high-priced.
It is therefore a pleasure to report that it has been scheduled for re-release in December 2013, by Cambridge University Press (Canto imprint); and that, as of November, HarperCollins has made a less expensive version available on Kindle, with hyper-linked notes (but no index; apparently the Kindle Search Engine is supposed to serve, IF you can remember the spellings of medieval names....).
There is (or was) another Kindle edition, without the notes, but using the cover art of what was the most recent Canto edition.Read more ›
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