Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Romance Languages and Literature: French Language and Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Liberal Arts (DLA)

Degree Type



At least since Stendhal's De l'Amour, scholars have argued that the theories of courtly love expressed in the Old French literature of the High Middle Ages were inspired by or drew upon elements of Islamicate culture. In this dissertation, I explore the theories of love represented in works of literature, lover's manuals and medical treatises composed in and around the late twelfth–century court of Marie de Champagne, which I read in conjunction with contemporaneous works from the Islamicate world, ranging from Al‑Andalus to Persia, in order to show how these works reflect the common cultural orientation of the medieval Mediterranean. By showing that the theories of amatory practice described in Andreas Capellanus's De amore cannot be accounted for exclusively from within the Ovidian tradition, I posit that by viewing the Old French theories of courtly love as a synthesis of the earlier Ovidian and Islamicate traditions, as represented by Ibn Hazm’s Tawq al‑Hamāma, we can better understand the place of courtly love within the constellation of medieval Mediterranean cultures. This conclusion serves as the point of departure for my subsequent analyses as I endeavor to show that the Tristan legend drew heavily upon the Persianate epic, Vīs u Rāmīn, a claim I substantiate through a comparision between those two works and Chrétien de Troyes's anti-Tristan, Cligès. Further, I maintain that the act of literary appropriation, whether through inspiration or translation, remained an active process that sought to recontextualize and adapt content to the needs of its new cultural milieu. I then focus on the routes of pilgrimage and trade that spanned and linked the fragmented spaces of Christian and Islamic Mediterraneans and that made such cultural and literary exchanges possible accross political, cultural, religion and linguistic borders. I do this through a study of the “Tale of Niʿma and Nuʿm” from the Alf Layla wa Layla and its old French adaptation, the Conte de Floire et Blancheflor by Robert d'Orbigny. There were, however, limits to the influence of Islamicate thought on the representation of love in Old French literature as is evinced in medical discourse: although theoretical medicine was revolutionized by the translation of medical treatises sich as Constantinus Africanus's eleventh-century Viaticum peregrinantis, literary love-discourse resisted change. Even as theories of love and lovesickness were redefined in light of this new medical knowledge, I demonstrate that the literary representation of love medicine continued to cleave to older, Ovidian tropes through the middle of the thirteenth century. By focusing on theories of love, which intersect with as disparate domains as theology and law, politics and science, I am able to show the ways in which Old French literature engages with and extends contemporaneous cultural and literary trends within the Islamicate world, thereby resituating it in its Mediterranean context.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Julie E. Singer

Committee Members

Seth Graebner, Sharon Kinoshita, Harriet Stone, Hayrettin Yucesoy


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/K7MW2FJ3