Michael Bryson; Arpi Movsesian

Published On


Page Range

pp. 121-194

Print Length

73 pages

4. The Troubadours and <i>Fin’amor</i>: Love, Choice, and the Individual

This chapter begins by arguing for a sharp contrast between the idea of 'courtly love' and the idea of fin’amor found in troubadour and trobairitz poetry. It grounds that discussion both in an examination of Chrétien de Troyes le Chevalier de la Charrette, and Gaston Paris’ analysis thereof, and the various treatments of the 'courtly' concept in criticism and in such primary texts as De Amore by Andreas Capellanus. The chapter then moves on to an analysis of apparent roots of troubadour poetry in Spanish Arabic/Muslim poetry of the 10th/11th centuries, before doing a close reading of the extant Occitan poetry, including extensive analysis of individual poems along with original translations from the Occitan. Along the way, the chapter continually engages with 19th-21st century scholarship on troubadour poetry and culture. The argument of the chapter is that in these poems, love represents a willful one-to-one choice of each lover by the other, both at the level of physical passion and emotional/intellectual attachment. The love here is specifically not the 'courtly love' so often (too often) spoken of by scholars ever since the unfortunate introduction of the term by Gaston Paris in 1881. 'Courtly love' is a pious fraud that only one of the ink-stained figures from Yeat’s poem 'The Scholars' could find convincing. It is tame and cooperative, and in no way antithetical to the interests of those in power. Fin’amor is an entirely different matter. This love is absolutely antithetical to the interests of property/power, and is an attempt to carve out (however unsuccessfully) a sphere of operation for individual choice in a world of arranged marriages, prescribed faith, and feudal fealty.


Arpi Movsesian