The Mad Lovers of the Ovidian Lais
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Romance composers borrowed their symptoms of amor principally from Ovid’s love writings. Scholars generally have considered these borrowings to be conventions or decorations rather than transmitters of serious philosophy of love and have sometimes noted the incongruity between courtly love and the satirical and misogynistic version of the emotion promoted by Ovid. Yet for many medieval readers, Ovid represented a philosopher rather than the duplicitous and elusive love expert modern readers generally understand him to be. I will argue that Ovid as read by romance composers was a philosopher who theorized upon love from a Neoplatonic perspective.1 But romance composers also incorporated another Ovidian persona familiar to modern readers into their version of Ovid, that is, the Magister amoris of the love works, creating a sort of “Super-Ovid.” Ovid, as romance composers read him, then, was a combination of these two well-know Ovidian figures, and, seeing the Magister amoris as an aspect of their Super-Ovid, romance composers viewed his advice on how to manage love in positive light, as offering models for mitigating amor, the imperious urge to consummate unleashed by elemental forces.
KeywordsSexual Desire Twelfth Century Modern Reader Human Love Courtly Love
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